UNCTAD is currently in the process of consulting the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection. This follows directly from the conclusions of the Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection, that took place in Geneva between the 12th and 13th July 2012, which recommend that "UNCTAD should....undertake discussions regarding the possibility of updating the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection" and "undertake to collaborate on the content of potential revisions".
The current Guidelines were drafted by ECOSOC and adopted by the General Assembly in 1985 (Resolution A/C.2/54/L.24 9TH). These Guidelines remain a valid and relevant document for consumer protection policy and have been used to draft a significant number of national consumer protection laws. In order for these Guidelines to continue to provide an important framework, a number of areas have been identified for their improvement. Firstly, since there has not been any form of revision since 1999, their content does not reflect the issues covered in the most contemporary consumer protection laws and policies. Secondly, their scope of application does not correspond with the usual powers of modern consumer protection authorities. Finally, the Guidelines are not backed by a state-of-the-art compilation of the best practices and common trends in the field of consumer protection. This process aims to address these issues.
The first stage of this process involved an initial consultation process with stakeholders; member states, international organisations and consumer groups. A call for contributions, in the form of views on the current Guidelines, was made by UNCTAD, whereby participants were invited to complete a matrix relating to the issues addressed in the Guidelines. Particular attention was paid to the 'emerging issues' of consumer protection; e-commerce, financial services and modalities for multilateral cooperation. These documents may be seen below.
As a result of this consultation process, UNCTAD has compiled and digested the received contributions in order to produce the first draft of the Implementation Report. The objective of this report is to establish a benchmark on the use and adoption of the Guidelines, to highlight the emerging issues for consumer protection and to identify a number of areas for their improvement. This report may be seen below. Presentations of the final report were made, among others, to the OECD CCP in April, ICPEN and other UN regional meetings; it was also used as the basis for discussions at the 13th Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE), Second Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consumer Protection, held in Geneva in July 2013.
As a result of these discussions, it was established that during the preparatory process for the UN Review Conference (from now until 2015), the Secretariat will consult and seek input from Member States and observer organizations on the work programme of the Conference to be decided upon during the next IGE in 2014. The Secretariat will invite Member States and observer organizations to voluntarily nominate experts who can assist in the preparation of the UNCTAD Report to that Conference to be members of a working group (s). Four groups (Financial Services, E-Commerce, Cluster Issues and Implementation of the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection) will be formed to assist the secretariat in preparing a report to the 7th UN Review Conference, scheduled for 2015.