The UNGCP were adopted by consensus in 1985. This followed a long campaign by consumer associations in many countries, with Consumers International (then known as the International Organisation of Consumer Unions since its establishment in 1960 and granted general consultative status by the Economic & Social Committee in 1977) acting as interlocutor with the United Nations, having called upon the United Nations to prepare a 'Model Code for consumer protection' at its World congress in Sydney in 1975. This led, in 1977, to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) directing the Secretary General to prepare a survey of national institutions and legislation in the area of consumer protection and in 1981, ECOSOC requested the Secretary General 'to continue consultations on consumer protection with a view to elaborating a set of general guidelines for consumer protection, taking particularly into account the needs of the developing countries'. Draft guidelines were circulated to governments for comments in 1982, submitted to ECOSOC in 1983, drawing on many sources including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States Consumer Bill of Rights and materials from national consumer protection agencies and consumer associations.
In 1999, the UNGCP were expanded significantly by ECOSOC to include a new section on sustainable consumption (Section H of the 2015 version).
In July 2012, the First Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection decided that UNCTAD should begin a consultation process on the revision of the UNGCP. As a result, the UNCTAD secretariat produced the Implementation Report on the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection (1985 - 2013).
The Second Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection, held in July 2013 under the French Presidency, discussed the Implementation Report and its conclusions, and proposed the creation of four Working Groups (on e-commerce, financial services, other issues and implementation) that would feed into the UNCTAD Secretariat report, Modalities for the Revision of the UNGCP, to be submitted to the VII United Nations Conference to Review all Aspect of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices.
In July 2013, the Third Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Consumer Protection discussed the Modalities Report and its conclusions, plus further issues that were highlighted by member States and stakeholders as candidates for inclusion in the UNGCP. A text was negotiated among consumer protection experts and diplomatic missions in Geneva between January and June 2015.
The Seventh United Nations Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices, which was held in Geneva from 6 to 10 July 2015, adopted by unanimity in its Resolution, the Draft Resolution on consumer protection and the revised UNGCP and invited "the General Assembly of the United Nations, at its seventieth Session in 2015, to consider the adoption of the Draft Resolution on Consumer Protection and the revised United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection as annexed to this resolution."
The General Assembly adopted the resolution on consumer protection and the annexed UNGCP on 22 December 2015 in resolution 70/186.