Friday, October 11, 2013

OCTOBER IS CONSUMER’S MONTH - What consumers should know:


1. The Right to Basic Needs – This guarantees survival, adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, and sanitation.

You may look forward to:
The availability of basic and prime commodities to consumers at affordable prices and of good quality.

What to do:
* Prioritize your needs;
* Look for quality, not quantity;
* Be quality conscious, not brand conscious;
* Do not engage in panic-buying; and
* In time of crisis / calamity, be vigilant in ensuring that basic commodities are available in the market.

If you are not satisfied:
* Keep in mind that the highest priced or most expensive product in the market may not be necessarily be the best in quality;
* Be vigilant in ensuring your continuous access to a wide assortment of competitively-priced goods and services; and
* Ensure also that in time of crisis, the price and commodities do not increase exorbitantly.

2. The Right to Safety – This is the right to be protected against the marketing of goods or the provision of services that are hazardous to health and life.

You may look forward to:
* Manufacturers of consumer products to undertake extensive safety and performance testing before selling their products in the market.
* Labels which contain the proper product information, its use and operation, and necessary precautions or warning signs.

What to do:
* If you have sensitivity to a certain ingredient, it would be very beneficial if you read all labels and product circulars before using a certain product.
* If you are in a store and have doubts about the product's effectiveness, ask for a person who knows how the product works or how to operate it.
* Keep certain products out of children's reach. Watch out for warning signs in the label of the product like "Not suited for Children Below Four (4) Years" or "POISON: For external use only", etc.
* Before buying products especially in cases when only large containers are available, it would be best if you ask for a sample or tester.
* Be on guard regarding products which are found to be hazardous, you can scan newspapers regularly for news bits on this topic.

If you are not satisfied:
* If no one in the store can explain to you satisfactorily things about the product, try to contact the manufacturer and give the pertinent details needed in determining the product easily such as code numbers and date of purchase for easy product identification.
* If you have doubts about the safety or proper performance of a product, go back to the store with your official receipt. To save time, jot down your questions.

3. The Right to Information – This is the right to information, which is the right to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising or labeling, and the right to be given the facts and information needed to make an informed choice.

You may look forward to:
A complete information about the product to be bought including its use, ingredients / chemical contents, precautions, if any, limitations and expiry date.

What to do:
* Before buying a product, it is very important for you to read the label carefully so that you would be able to know its use, content (chemical ingredients), number of pieces, and proper care.
* Before signing any document like warranties or guarantees, credit items or service contracts, it is important to read and understand all provisions in the documents especially the fine prints.
* It is very important to read newspapers, buying guides, and magazines before buying a product. Also, consult with friends who you know have bought a similar product.
* If you need to clarify something regarding the use of the product, don't hesitate to write the company to obtain detailed information.
* It is imperative to look for the name and address of the manufacturer in case the need arises.

If you are not satisfied:
It would be advisable to contact the manufacturer directly which will be in the best position to give you detailed information.

4. The Right to Choose – This is the right to choose products with competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality.

You may look forward to:
* A wide array of goods and services which are offered in the market with diverse brands, sizes, shapes and colors, and with differences in the price, quality, and use.

What to do:
* Specify what you really want. The biggest size may be cheaper but it may not be what you need.
* Canvass price before buying a product or signing a contract.
* Read the manuals or instructions carefully to be able to compare one product with another so you will not miss the fine prints which might contain the information you need to determine which product would serve you better.
* If product testers are available, be sure to try one.
* Be wary of special offers like free items or buy 2 take 1 free. Compare them with the regular priced items to be sure that you are not paying for the said "free" items.

If you are not satisfied:
* Get in touch with the store owner / manufacturer in case you have a query regarding the product.
* As regards services rendered, you may write the company manager and suggest ways in which to improve their service

5. The right to Representation – This is the right to express consumer interests in the making and execution of government policies.

You may look forward to:
Legislators who would propose laws that would ensure consumers have the chance to live a better life by getting the best value for their hard-earned peso.

What to do:
*Read newspapers, bulletin boards in private and government offices, especially in your locality for announcements of public hearings.
*Take time to attend public hearings or even meetings conducted in your area wherein consumer issues are being discusses.
*Be aware of how the consumer laws and regulations are being implemented in your locality.

If you are not satisfied:
*Write a letter to your barangay chairman, especially if the issue concerns your locality. The barangay chairman is in the best position to recommend your proposal to the council.
*Be a member of a consumer group because there is strength in number and your collective voices will be heard loud and clear.

6. The right to Redress – This is the right to be compensated for misrepresentation, shoddy goods, or unsatisfactory services.

3 Rs: Repair; Replace; Refund

You may look forward to:
Manufacturers/storeowners to replace defective goods pursuant to the provision on “No Return, No Exchange” provided in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

What to do:
* In case you bought a defective product, try going back to the store where you bought the item and look for the Consumer Welfare Desk (CWD).
* You may request a replacement, refund, or repair.
* If the manager or store representative does not act on your complaint, proceed to the agency which has jurisdiction over your case.
* Bring the necessary documents like complaint letter and a copy of your receipt and other documents vital for the mediation.
* Be sure to attend the mediation conference.

If you are not satisfied:
* If mediation fails, arbitration follows. The process used is similar to the process being implemented by the regular courts. You will be duly informed of the developments of your case.

Note: On the first day of the hearing, the Consumer Arbitration Officer (CAO) shall talk to the parties for a last attempt to mediate/conciliate the complaint. If no settlement is reached, a formal hearing will be conducted. The CAO shall resolve the complaint after formal hearing. The CAO’s decision becomes final and executory unless appealed to the Department Secretary concerned, within 15 days from receipt of such order (Reference: Joint DTI, DOH, DA Administrative Order # 1, Series of 1993).

7. The right to Consumer Education – This is the right to acquire the knowledge and kills necessary to be an informed customer.

You may look forward to:
* The three sectors of society, business, government and consumer to embark on tri-media information campaign on consumer-related issues.
* A series of seminar, conferences, for a, trainings, and public hearings for the welfares of consumers.
* Consumer education being integrated in the school curriculum from elementary, secondary, and tertiary level as mandated by the Consumer Act.

What to do:
* Scan newspapers, magazines, and other reading materials for articles or news bits which educate consumers on hot to get the best value for their money.
* Involve yourself in public hearings or even meetings conducted in your area wherein consumer related issues such as access to basic goods and services, product quality and safety, sustainable consumption and the like are being discussed.
* Participate in seminar, conferences, and for a conducted by government agencies, consumer groups, and business/industry sector regarding new laws and regulations for consumer welfare.

If you are not satisfied:
* Write a letter to consumer columnists to share your opinions regarding a consumer issue.
* Companies have consumer departments and department stores have Consumer Welfare Desk (CWD) wherein you can inquire on additional information regarding a product or share your views on goods and services that they are offering.
* Inquire about the consumer education activities being undertaken by the schools.
* Inform government officials in writing on issues or legislation that you think will greatly affect you as consumer.

8. The right to a Healthy Environment – This is the right to live and work in an environment which is neither threatening nor dangerous and which permits a life of dignity and well-being.

You may look forward to:
* The government exerting an iron hand regarding the alarming increase in the degredation of the environment especially our forests, dying wildlife, depleted landfill space, and environmental contamination to prevent further damage.
* Constant monitoring of our seas, coral reefs, forests, and waste disposal being committed by factories to check if there is a violation of the laws on environmental protection.

What to do:
* Be aware of the kind and extent of pollution occurring in your locality like air pollution, noise/odor, etc. so that you would be able to address the problem.
* Do your share in caring for our environment by practicing the 3Rs of environmental protection:

REDUCE the source of solid wasted by buying earth-friendly products. These are products that could be disposed properly without harming our environment.

REUSE products and containers as much as possible.

RECYCLE because using recycled products and recycling per se will prolong the life of our landfills.

If you are not satisfied:
* Write to the local officials and to consumer organizations if you are aware of dynamite fishing or illegal logging being committed in your area.
* Organize an earth-friendly group in your area, the main task of which is to ensure that your surroundings have clean air and water. Also, encourage the people in your neighborhood to practice proper waste disposal, use of recycled and recyclable materials and the use of environmentally safe materials.


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