16 April 1985
The General Assembly,
Recalling Economic and Social Council resolution 1981/62 of 23 July 1981,
in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to continue
consultations on consumer protection with a view to elaborating a set of
general guidelines for consumer protection, taking particularly into
account the needs of the developing countries,
Recalling further General Assembly resolution 38/147 of 19 December 1983,
Noting Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/63 of 26 July 1984,
1. Decides to adopt the guidelines for consumer protection annexed to
the present resolution;
2. Requests the Secretary-General to disseminate the guidelines to
Governments and other interested parties;
3. Requests all organizations of the United Nations system that
elaborate guidelines and related documents on specific areas relevant to
consumer protection to distribute them to the appropriate bodies of
GUIDELINES FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION
1. Taking into account the interests and needs of consumers in all
countries, particularly those in developing countries; recognizing that
consumers often face imbalances in economic terms, educational levels,
and bargaining power; and bearing in mind that consumers should have the
right of access to non-hazardous products, as well as the right to
promote just, equitable and sustainable economic and social development,
these guidelines for consumer protection have the following objectives:
(a) To assist countries in achieving or maintaining adequate protection
for their population as consumers;
(b) To facilitate production and distribution patterns responsive to the
needs and desires of consumers;
(c) To encourage high levels of ethical conduct for those engaged in the
production and distribution of goods and services to consumers;
(d) To assist countries in curbing abusive business practices by all
enterprises at the national and international levels which adversely
(e) To facilitate the development of independent consumer groups;
(f) To further international co-operation in the field of consumer
(g) To encourage the development of market conditions which provide
consumers with greater choice at lower prices.
II. General principles
2. Governments should develop, strengthen or maintain a strong consumer
protection policy, taking into account the guidelines set out below. In
so doing, each Government must set its own priorities for the protection
of consumers in accordance with the economic and social circumstances of
the country, and the needs of its population, and bearing in mind the
costs and benefits of proposed measures.
3. The legitimate needs which the guidelines are intended to meet are
(a) The protection of consumers from hazards to their health and safety;
(b) The promotion and protection of the economic interests of consumers;
(c) Access of consumers to adequate information to enable them to make
informed choices according to individual wishes and needs;
(d) Consumer education;
(e) Availability of effective consumer redress;
(f) Freedom to form consumer and other relevant groups or organizations
and the opportunity of such organizations to present their views in
decision-making processes affecting them.
4. Governments should provide or maintain adequate infrastructure to
develop, implement and monitor consumer protection policies. Special
care should be taken to ensure that measures for consumer protection are
implemented for the benefit of all sectors of the population,
particularly the rural population.
5. All enterprises should obey the relevant laws and regulations of the
countries in which they do business. They should also conform to the
appropriate provisions of international standards for consumer protection
to which the competent authorities of the country in question have
agreed. (Hereinafter references to international standards in the
guidelines should be viewed in the context of this paragraph.)
6. The potential positive role of universities and public and private
enterprises in research should be considered when developing consumer
7. The following guidelines should apply both to home-produced goods
and services and to imports.
8. In applying any procedures or regulations for consumer protection,
due regard should be given to ensuring that they do not become barriers
to international trade and that they are consistent with international
A. Physical safety
9. Governments should adopt or encourage the adoption of appropriate
measures, including legal systems, safety regulations, national or
international standards, voluntary standards and the maintenance of
safety records to ensure that products are safe for either intended or
normally foreseeable use.
10. Appropriate policies should ensure that goods produced by
manufacturers are safe for either intended or normally foreseeable use.
Those responsible for bringing goods to the market, in particular
suppliers, exporters, importers, retailers and the like (hereinafter
referred to as "distributors"), should ensure that while in their care
these goods are not rendered unsafe through improper handling or storage
and that while in their care they do not become hazardous through
improper handling or storage. Consumers should be instructed in the
proper use of goods and should be informed of the risks involved in
intended or normally foreseeable use. Vital safety information should be
conveyed to consumers by internationally understandable symbols wherever
11. Appropriate policies should ensure that if manufacturers or
distributors become aware of unforeseen hazards after products are placed
on the market, they should notify the relevant authorities and, as
appropriate, the public without delay. Governments should also consider
ways of ensuring that consumers are properly informed of such hazards.
12. Governments should, where appropriate, adopt policies under which,
if a product is found to be seriously defective and/or to constitute a
substantial and severe hazard even when properly used, manufacturers
and/or distributors should recall it and replace or modify it, or
substitute another product for it; if it is not possible to do this
within a reasonable period of time, the consumer should be adequately
B. Promotion and protection of consumers' economic interests
13. Government policies should seek to enable consumers to obtain
optimum benefit from their economic resources. They should also seek to
achieve the goals of satisfactory production and performance standards,
adequate distribution methods, fair business practices, informative
marketing and effective protection against practices which could
adversely affect the economic interests of consumers and the exercise of
choice in the market-place.
14. Governments should intensify their efforts to prevent practices
which are damaging to the economic interests of consumers through
ensuring that manufacturers, distributors and others involved in the
provision of goods and services adhere to established laws and mandatory
standards. Consumer organizations should be encouraged to monitor
adverse practices, such as the adulteration of foods, false or misleading
claims in marketing and service frauds.
15. Governments should develop, strengthen or maintain, as the case may
be, measures relating to the control of restrictive and other abusive
business practices which may be harmful to consumers, including means for
the enforcement of such measures. In this connection, Governments should
be guided by their commitment to the Set of Multilaterally Agreed
Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business
Practices adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 35/63 of
5 December 1980.
16. Governments should adopt or maintain policies that make clear the
responsibility of the producer to ensure that goods meet reasonable
demands of durability, utility and reliability, and are suited to the
purpose for which they are intended, and that the seller should see that
these requirements are met. Similar policies should apply to the
provision of services.
17. Governments should encourage fair and effective competition in order
to provide consumers with the greatest range of choice among products and
services at the lowest cost.
18. Governments should, where appropriate, see to it that manufacturers
and/or retailers ensure adequate availability of reliable after-sales
service and spare parts.
19. Consumers should be protected from such contractual abuses as
one-sided standard contracts, exclusion of essential rights in contracts,
and unconscionable conditions of credit by sellers.
20. Promotional marketing and sales practices should be guided by the
principle of fair treatment of consumers and should meet legal
requirements. This requires the provision of the information necessary
to enable consumers to take informed and independent decisions, as well
as measures to ensure that the information provided is accurate.
21. Governments should encourage all concerned to participate in the
free flow of accurate information on all aspects of consumer products.
22. Governments should, within their own national context, encourage the
formulation and implementation by business, in co-operation with consumer
organizations, of codes of marketing and other business practices to
ensure adequate consumer protection. Voluntary agreements may also be
established jointly by business, consumer organizations and other
interested parties. These codes should receive adequate publicity.
23. Governments should regularly review legislation pertaining to
weights and measures and assess the adequacy of the machinery for its
C. Standards for the safety and quality of consumer goods
24. Governments should, as appropriate, formulate or promote the
elaboration and implementation of standards, voluntary and other, at the
national and international levels for the safety and quality of goods and
services and give them appropriate publicity. National standards and
regulations for product safety and quality should be reviewed from time
to time, in order to ensure that they conform, where possible, to
generally accepted international standards.
25. Where a standard lower than the generally accepted international
standard is being applied because of local economic conditions, every
effort should be made to raise that standard as soon as possible.
26. Governments should encourage and ensure the availability of
facilities to test and certify the safety, quality and performance of
essential consumer goods and services.
D. Distribution facilities for essential consumer goods
27. Governments should, where appropriate, consider:
(a) Adopting or maintaining policies to ensure the efficient
distribution of goods and services to consumers; where appropriate,
specific policies should be considered to ensure the distribution of
essential goods and services where this distribution is endangered, as
could be the case particularly in rural areas. Such policies could
include assistance for the creation of adequate storage and retail
facilities in rural centres, incentives for consumer self-help and better
control of the conditions under which essential goods and services are
provided in rural areas;
(b) Encouraging the establishment of consumer co-operatives and related
trading activities, as well as information about them, especially in
E. Measures enabling consumers to obtain redress
28. Governments should establish or maintain legal and/or administrative
measures to enable consumers or, as appropriate, relevant organizations
to obtain redress through formal or informal procedures that are
expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible. Such procedures should
take particular account of the needs of low-income consumers.
29. Governments should encourage all enterprises to resolve consumer
disputes in a fair, expeditious and informal manner, and to establish
voluntary mechanisms, including advisory services and informal complaints
procedures, which can provide assistance to consumers.
30. Information on available redress and other dispute-resolving
procedures should be made available to consumers.
F. Education and information programmes
31. Governments should develop or encourage the development of general
consumer education and information programmes, bearing in mind the
cultural traditions of the people concerned. The aim of such programmes
should be to enable people to act as discriminating consumers, capable of
making an informed choice of goods and services, and conscious of their
rights and responsibilities. In developing such programmes, special
attention should be given to the needs of disadvantaged consumers, in
both rural and urban areas, including low-income consumers and those with
low or non-existent literacy levels.
32. Consumer education should, where appropriate, become an integral
part of the basic curriculum of the educational system, preferably as a
component of existing subjects.
33. Consumer education and information programmes should cover such
important aspects of consumer protection as the following:
(a) Health, nutrition, prevention of food-borne diseases and food
(b) Product hazards;
(c) Product labelling;
(d) Relevant legislation, how to obtain redress, and agencies and
organizations for consumer protection;
(e) Information on weights and measures, prices, quality, credit
conditions and availability of basic necessities; and
(f) As appropriate, pollution and environment.
34. Governments should encourage consumer organizations and other
interested groups, including the media, to undertake education and
information programmes, particularly for the benefit of low-income
consumer groups in rural and urban areas.
35. Business should, where appropriate, undertake or participate in
factual and relevant consumer education and information programmes.
36. Bearing in mind the need to reach rural consumers and illiterate
consumers, Governments should, as appropriate, develop or encourage the
development of consumer information programmes in the mass media.
37. Governments should organize or encourage training programmes for
educators, mass media professionals and consumer advisers, to enable them
to participate in carrying out consumer information and education
G. Measures relating to specific areas
38. In advancing consumer interests, particularly in developing
countries, Governments should, where appropriate, give priority to areas
of essential concern for the health of the consumer, such as food, water
and pharmaceuticals. Policies should be adopted or maintained for
product quality control, adequate and secure distribution facilities,
standardized international labelling and information, as well as
education and research programmes in these areas. Government guidelines
in regard to specific areas should be developed in the context of the
provisions of this document.
39. Food. When formulating national policies and plans with regard to
food, Governments should take into account the need of all consumers for
food security and should support and, as far as possible, adopt standards
from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the
World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius or, in their absence, other
generally accepted international food standards. Governments should
maintain, develop or improve food safety measures, including, inter alia,
safety criteria, food standards and dietary requirements and effective
monitoring, inspection and evaluation mechanisms.
40. Water. Governments should, within the goals and targets set for the
International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, formulate,
maintain or strengthen national policies to improve the supply,
distribution and quality of water for drinking. Due regard should be
paid to the choice of appropriate levels of service, quality and
technology, the need for education programmes and the importance of
41. Pharmaceuticals. Governments should develop or maintain adequate
standards, provisions and appropriate regulatory systems for ensuring the
quality and appropriate use of pharmaceuticals through integrated
national drug policies which could address, inter alia, procurement,
distribution, production, licensing arrangements, registration systems
and the availability of reliable information on pharmaceuticals. In so
doing, Governments should take special account of the work and
recommendations of the World Health Organization on pharmaceuticals. For
relevant products, the use of that organization's Certification Scheme on
the Quality of Pharmaceutical Products Moving in International Commerce
and other international information systems on pharmaceuticals should be
encouraged. Measures should also be taken, as appropriate, to promote
the use of international non-proprietary names (INNs) for drugs, drawing
on the work done by the World Health Organization.
42. In addition to the priority areas indicated above, Governments
should adopt appropriate measures in other areas, such as pesticides and
chemicals in regard, where relevant, to their use, production and
storage, taking into account such relevant health and environmental
information as Governments may require producers to provide and include
in the labelling of products.
IV. International co-operation
43. Governments should, especially in a regional or subregional context:
(a) Develop, review, maintain or strengthen, as appropriate, mechanisms
for the exchange of information on national policies and measures in the
field of consumer protection;
(b) Co-operate or encourage co-operation in the implementation of
consumer protection policies to achieve greater results within existing
resources. Examples of such co-operation could be collaboration in the
setting up or joint use of testing facilities, common testing procedures,
exchange of consumer information and education programmes, joint training
programmes and joint elaboration of regulations;
(c) Co-operate to improve the conditions under which essential goods are
offered to consumers, giving due regard to both price and quality. Such
co-operation could include joint procurement of essential goods, exchange
of information on different procurement possibilities and agreements on
regional product specifications.
44. Governments should develop or strengthen information links regarding
products which have been banned, withdrawn or severely restricted in
order to enable other importing countries to protect themselves
adequately against the harmful effects of such products.
45. Governments should work to ensure that the quality of products, and
information relating to such products, does not vary from country to
country in a way that would have detrimental effects on consumers.
46. Governments should work to ensure that policies and measures for
consumer protection are implemented with due regard to their not becoming
barriers to international trade, and that they are consistent with
international trade obligations.