unctad.org | United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection
United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection
Resolution 70/186 on Consumer Protection, adopted by the General Assembly on 22 December 2015

 Revision of the UN Guidelines


UNCTAD is undertaking a consultation on the revision of the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection.

This task was mandated by the First Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection (2012) and later developed in the Second Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection (2013).

The First Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consumer Protection (12-13 July 2012) asked UNCTAD to prepare an Implementation Report on the UNGCP. This report (TD/B/C.I/CLP/23) concluded that since 1985, the UNGCP have been widely implemented by Member States of United Nations. The national contributions to this implementation assessment (over 50) showed that all areas of the current Guidelines remain valid and useful. In addition, new challenges to consumer protection were identified: e-commerce and financial services. Additional issues such as data protection, abusive advertisement, energy and cross-border trade merit wider consultations. Interest was raised on the implementation and monitoring of the UNGCP.

The Second Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Consumer Protection (11-12 July 2013) served to review UNCTAD's Implementation Report. During the discussions, several areas were identified for incorporation into any future revisions, particularly those where substantive progress has been made in other organizations, such as the OECD, and where there is consensus among United Nations members, particularly:

  • E-commerce: OECD Guidelines for Consumer Protection in the Context of E-commerce (1999) [currently under revision, due 2017]

  • Financial Services: OECD G-20 High-level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection (2012)

Further, experts identified other issues that merit further discussion before inclusion: data protection, misleading advertising, energy, cross-border trade, transport, universal services, access to knowledge, tourism, class actions, and housing.

Experts also called for an implementation and control mechanism of the UNGCP.

As a mechanism to explore these issues, a proposal was accepted to establish Working Groups. The UNCTAD secretariat will prepare a report to be submitted to the VII UN Review Conference to Review the Set on the issues for inclusion in a possible future revision in collaboration with the Chairs of the Working Groups. The chairmanship of each working group is as follows: E-commerce (France), Financial Services (Malaysia), Other issues (Brazil & Germany) and Implementation of UNGCP (Gabon).

The Chairs and the UNCTAD Secretariat have agreed on a working methodology for each group. UNCTAD will now call for participation to member States as well as international organisations, Consumers International, the International Chamber of Commerce, academics and other relevant stakeholders. Working Groups will make use of ICT and regional gatherings in order to consult on, present and publicise their work.

In collaboration and accordance with each of the Working Groups, the UNCTAD Secretariat has prepared questionnaires (one for each of the Working Groups) and is now disseminating them in order to solicit the views, concerns, best practices and recommendations from member States and the other relevant stakeholders.

The responses to these questionnaires will be used to construct a First Report, which will serve to summarise the findings of the questionnaires disseminated by the Working Groups; outlining findings and trends, as well as highlighting the key issues as expressed by the member States and relevant stakeholders.

The deadline for First Report has been set as June 2014. After dissemination and further input from member States and other relevant stakeholders the Final Report will be produced by November 2014, containing possible avenues for a potential revision of the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection.

The Final Report will be submitted for consideration to the VII UN Conference to Review the Set in 2015.



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 Consultations in 2013


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.



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