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UPDATED: March 29, 2012 NO.13 MARCH 29, 2012
Concerted Efforts

March 15 is World Consumer Rights Day. The day, devoted to promoting the rights of the world's consumers, is widely observed in China.

In fact, ever since 1997, the China Consumers Association (CCA) has named a theme on this day each year to highlight a specific area in which efforts should be made to further safeguard consumers' interests. Invariably, on this day, various consumer rights activities, often featuring market regulators, companies and ordinary citizens, are organized across the country to remind consumers of their rights and the measures they can take to protect their interests. The CCA has picked Consumers' Safety as the theme for 2012.

Working together with the government, the CCA and its local counterparts have played a vital part in consumer rights protection. According to the CCA's statistics, in 2011 they handled a total of 607,263 complaints and retrieved 800.42 million yuan ($126.71 million) worth of economic losses for consumers. In addition, China has since 1993 adopted a full package of legislative and regulatory measures, both at national and local levels, to protect consumers' rights and interests. As a result of strong legislative support and the proactive endeavors of the CCA network, progress has been made in advancing consumer rights protection in China.

Despite the positive scenario, cases of consumer rights violations continue to be widely reported in the country.

An increasingly wide range of industries, from food and cosmetic producers to banking institutions, real estate developers and automobile manufacturers, have been found guilty of violating consumer rights.

Even big-name multinational companies like Wal-Mart, Carrefour and McDonald's, which all enjoy strong international reputations, have been found to be engaged in fraudulent practices. These malpractices not only hurt the interests of consumers, but also badly tarnish the images of the businesses involved.

While businesses, as the creators and vendors of products and services, rightly bear the brunt of criticism for infringing consumers' rights, the relevant government agencies, industrial and commercial administrators and product quality supervisors, for instance, should also share the blame, as their negligence and loose supervision often leave consumers vulnerable to fraud and exploitation by unscrupulous businesses.

To strengthen consumer protection, government departments should introduce specific policies and more effective administrative regimes such as penalty codes and a system for product recalls and refunds, in order to further protect consumers' rights and interests.

The media, the CCA network, and consumers themselves, too, have their respective roles to play in combating dishonesty, promoting responsible commercial practices and upholding social justice. Only when all the parties—the legislature, the government supervisors, companies, the media, as well as consumers and their rights groups—get involved and make concerted efforts will the rights of consumers be truly guaranteed.

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