UNCTAD´s activities in the field of consumer protection build on the work accomplished by the United Nations, including the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection.
The United Nations Guidelines take into account the interests and needs of consumers, particularly those in developing countries, and cover a wide range of issues, from physical safety to the promotion of sustainable consumption.
UNCTAD Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE)
sessions also provide a specialized intergovernmental forum for regular contacts, debates and exchange of experiences among consumer protection agencies and consumer representatives.
UNCTAD capacity-building and technical assistance includes an integral approach related to the interface between competition and consumer protection policies. UNCTAD believes that, both competition and consumer policies act to protect consumers’ well-being and are usually mutually reinforcing.
Competition policy seeks to spur suppliers to offer better deals to consumers.
Consumer policy aims to suppress deception and other conduct and market conditions that impede effective consumer comparison- and decision-making, while providing consumers with tools to make more informed choices.
However, remedies for one policy can inadvertently impede the attainment of the other policy’s objectives. New products, new pricing and marketing practices and new understanding of their effects on consumer decision-making can suggest a re-evaluation of policy interventions.
UNCTAD carries out a number of technical assistance activities for developing countries, including the following:
Formulating new or strengthening existing consumer protection legislation that fits their specific legal and economic structure and can best address their development needs;
Establishing new or strengthening existing consumer protection institutions;
Capacity-building for better enforcement of consumer protection laws;
Promoting a consumer protection culture through competition advocacy activities;
To achieve these objectives, UNCTAD works closely with consumer protection authorities in member States, development partners, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and consumer protection experts from the private sector and academia.
At the regional level, UNCTAD has developed full-fledged programmes such as the COMPAL Programme. COMPAL is a technical assistance program carried out by UNCTAD on competition and consumer protection policies and laws for Latin America financed by the Swiss Government (SECO).
For instance the second phase of COMPAL was to ensure the sustainability of competition and consumer protection systems in the beneficiary countries and to improve the functioning of their markets through a holistic and inclusive approach with the overall purpose of improved competitiveness of local enterprises including those in the informal sector as well as fostering consumer welfare.
This would be achieved through deepening capacity and institutional building components as well as maximizing the impact of activities carried out. Moreover, in light of the regional context in Latin America, COMPAL II would also address initiatives aimed at fostering the exchange of experiences and expertise, and promoting cooperation at the regional level.
See more information about COMPAL at www.programacompal.org