The news stories in the last few months have included some pretty alarming stories about bad products that have come to us from China. And we in the west do look with disgust at failures of a government to assure that products produced by merchants are safe for consumers. This is because our government maintains a high level of control, testing, and monitoring of products to assure that the consumers of these products are protected and consumers can buy them with confidence.
Of course, this is not to say that problems with consumer protection have been eliminated. But when a product is found to be unsafe, we have a sophisticated system of recalls and alerts that go out over our media. In this way, that the damage and danger from inferior product is vastly minimized from what it might have been.
Consumer rights and protection are an important area of focus for manufacturers and merchants. These laws have a high level of importance for merchants and that drives up quality control and inspection even before the government or legal systems get involved. That is because the outcome of a recall or product failure, especially if that failure leads to injury or death of a consumer, can be devastating both to the individual merchant or company involved and to the market it serves that placing a high priority on quality is as much about market survival as it is about ethical behavior by companies.
What can we as consumers expect in the way of our rights and the protections we deserve as being part of this economy? It breaks down to what we consider to be the basics of the contract that is implied when we give someone money for a product or service…
- We expect to be able to use the goods safely with no possibility of immediate harm or long term illness as result of using the product.
- We expect the product to perform according to reasonable expectations based on what the product was promoted to do both on the package and in advertisements.
- We expect to pay what the product is advertised to cost. We do not accept changes in price after that price is advertised or surprise costs to be added on that we weren’t expecting.
- If a product fails to deliver the service it was advertised to deliver, or is found to be flawed in any way, we expect the merchant to refund or replace the product promptly and courteously.
- In the case of food, medicines or other consumables, we expect the product to be made of the highest levels of quality and to be reasonably fresh and usable.
- We expect the merchants involved in the sale of the product to stand behind the product with guarantees from the retail merchant all the way to the manufacturer.
We have not come up with this list of rights and protections on our own. These are the minimum standards prescribed by our laws to assure that the consuming public can trade with merchant in any kind of product and service and be treated with the same minimum levels of professionalism and quality assurance.
From the merchant’s point of view, you might think these high standards of consumer rights and protections would be a burden. But in fact, these laws protect both the consumer and the merchant. That is because these laws make it possible for the buying public to engage in commerce with any merchant that is authorized to do business with confidence.
Consumer protection laws make an active marketplace possible which benefits both consumers and merchants equally. So complying with consumer protection laws is not just essential from a legal point of view. It makes good sense for merchants to comply fully and perform above expectations in terms of their ability to deliver quality product to their customers. It just makes good business sense.