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    Consumer Protection in LAC II-B – Consumer Legislation in LAC Nations

    By Keith R | April 17, 2007

    Topics: Advertising/Promotion, Consumer Protection | 2 Comments »

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    To make up for missing World Consumer Rights Day (March 15), I promised to give you a five-part overview of consumer protection in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In Part I, I looked at how consumer agencies and consumer NGOs in the region celebrated the Day. In Part II-A, I provided an overview of the intergovernmental bodies — the UN, Parlatino, Caricom and Mercosur — that have helped share consumer policy in the region. Here in in Part II-B I’ll give a quick guide to the state of consumer protection laws, regulations, policies, etc. that can be found in the region. In Part III I’ll provide a guide to LAC’s consumer agencies. In Part IV I’ll look at LAC’s consumer groups. And in Part V, I’ll give you a flavor of the current issues and actors by providing a potpourri of consumer protection news briefs from the region.

    Hopefully once I’m finished, most of you will be saying that you did not realize consumer protection had progressed as far as it has in LAC before you read this series. Still has far to go, for sure! But not nearly as primitive as many suppose.

    By the way, these various “guides” regarding consumer protection initiatives in LAC will shortly be added to the “Temas Tools” section (see the righthand menu) as standalone pages that I can update periodically, so if this subject interests you, keep your eyes peeled for that and bookmark the pages once they’re posted.

    Does Your Constitution Guarantee Consumer Protection?

    Mine in the US doesn’t. Yet the US has a relatively high degree of consumer protection. The European Union (EU) does too, but among its member states only Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain have consumer protection provisions in their constitutions. In fact, a 2001 study by Consumers International (CI) identified just 26 nations* worldwide with constitutional provisions. There are probably more, since I know of at least four LAC nations and one other (Georgia) that did not make that list but do have relevant provisions (El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela).

    Why do some nations have consumer provisions in their constitutions and others not? I’m not certain, but I do note that most of the nations that do have constitutions either written or revised since 1985, when the UN Consumer Protection Guidelines were adopted (see Part II-A of this series). Coincidence?

    Is a Constitutional provision usually needed? Does it really offer a stronger degree of protection? I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps there is a lawyer or professor of consumer law out there that can shed some light on the question.

    The consumer protection provisions in the national constitutions of Argentina (1994), Brazil (1988), Colombia (1991), Costa Rica (1949, as amended 1996), Ecuador (1998), El Salvador (1983, as last amended in 2000), Guatemala (1985), Panama (1972, as last amended in 2004), Peru (1993) and Venezuela (1999) are diverse. The Brazilian constitution simply declares that a law will set out consumer protection. At the other end of the scale, Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution sets out a detailed list of consumer rights, and tasks the Defender of the People (a kind of national ombudsman) to defend those rights and get appropriate government agencies to punish violations.

    Most of the other nation’s constitutional provisions at a minimum call for the state to defend consumers against monopolies and abuses of a dominant position in the marketplace, and many speak of the right to “adequate and true information” about products and services and protecting against problems with product quality, health and safety.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention the constitutions of states or provinces in the federal republics such as Argentina and Brazil (Mexican states also have constitutions, but I have not found one that mentions consumers). Several have consumer protection provisions, namely:

    Argentina: Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Chaco, Chubut, Cordoba, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Rio Negro, Salta, San Juan

    Brazil: Acre, Goiás, Espirito Santo, Pará, Paraná, Pernambuco, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Tocantins

    [And yes, before you ask, some of these also have their own consumer protection framework laws as well.]

    National Framework Laws Among LAC States

    By now, most nations in the region have some sort of framework consumer protection law or code. The only countries still lacking them are Belize, Bolivia, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Saint Lucia is currently considering a consumer protection act, in part to fulfill its commitment under Protocol VIII of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

    The existing framework laws/codes can be viewed/downloaded from the following links:

    Antigua and Barbuda (1988)

    Argentina (1993)

    Bahamas (2006)

    Barbados (2002)

    Brazil (1990)

    Chile (1997)

    Colombia (1981)

    Costa Rica (1994)

    Dominican Republic (2005)

    Ecuador (2000)

    El Salvador (2005, replaces 1996 law)

    Guatemala (2003)

    Honduras (1989)

    Jamaica (2005)

    Mexico (1992, last revised 2006)

    Nicaragua (1994)

    Panama (1996)

    Paraguay (1998)

    Peru (original and 2000 amendment)

    Trinidad and Tobago (1986, as amended 1998)

    Uruguay (1999)

    Venezuela (2004)

    As you may note, most of these came after the UN Consumer Protection Guidelines. The one that preceded it — Colombia’s — is rather basic and long overdue for an overhaul, but Congress has not gone along with various reform proposals.

    Comparing the various elements of the national framework laws would be a Herculean task that I suspect would bore most, if not all, of you to tears. So I’ll leave that to someone else (CI’s Santiago office someday, perhaps?). Instead, in the coming months I may compare and contrast some of their provisions about specific subjects — misleading advertising, for example, or product safety or abusive contractual clauses — as the issue arises.

    Other National Consumer Protection Legislation

    A few LAC nations, such as Argentina and Brazil, have gone much beyond the framework laws to adopt supplementary laws or implementing regulations, decrees or regulatory resolutions on specific consumer protection topics, such as labeling, advertising, telemarketing, contracts, etc. Rather than list all these here, I will include them classified by category when I convert this entry into a standalone page on consumer laws accessible via the “Temas Tools” section in the righthand menu.

    — Keith R

    * Andorra, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Lithuania, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen

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    2 Responses to “Consumer Protection in LAC II-B – Consumer Legislation in LAC Nations”

    1. Arrow Says:

      Harmonization – a political philosophy coming to a government near you soon!

      NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO and the road to the New World Order may make for beneficial trade for some countires but It will and is already leading to the decline of personal freedoms and the loss of jurisdiction in your own back yard. Material weath does not equal freedom of spirit and freedom of thought and the right to control your own destiny on a national level. Subjugating your own national laws to the control of the WTO will lead you in New World Order of dominion. Can you even name the people and what interests they represent that sit on the boards of the WTO? What nationality, better yet, what corporatons?

      [comment substantially cut for spam content]

    2. Keith R Says:

      Hi Arrow — or should I say Arrowwind? I debated whether to simply delete your comment as spam or post an abbreviated version to respond to and make a point, and I finally chose the latter.

      Your long original comment was not really a comment at all, but rather a verbatim cut-and-paste from a post on your own blog. By most people’s standards, that is spamming in a big way. If you wanted people to read your words, try posting a link to the post — if it’s relevant.

      Which leads me to the next point. Nothing in your post/comment has anything to do with the post you tried to attach it to. I only discussed the constitutional provisions and framework laws in LAC nations regarding consumer protection. You come in here ranting about the EU, WTO, Codex, NAFTA, CAFTA, New World Order and the nonexistent North American Union — none of which was discussed in my post. So again, most blogs would qualify that as spam.

      Let’s be clear: I want comments, I want conversation and debate here on The Temas Blog — but please have the courtesy of keeping it relevant! If I post on the Codex Alimentarius or dietary supplements, then you are welcome to comment on your concerns about Codex’s work on dietary supplements, or ask about how LAC nations are approaching either topic. [I happen to know quite a bit about Codex’s work on food standards, biotech foods, pesticide and veterinary drug MRLs, etc., since I followed it from 1981 onward.] If I post on how Mexico is trying harmonize its legislation in area “x” to match American and Canadian law, then maybe we can talk about the downsides of NAFTA. If I post that the US is pressuring the DR or Central America to do “x” to “in order to meet their DR-CAFTA obligations,” then ok, let’s discuss the perils of harmonization under a asymetrical trade agreement.

      If you can stick to those rules, you’re welcome to post here again on The Temas Blog.


      P.S. The WTO does most of its work by councils, bodies and committees, not “boards.” The membership of all (usually civil servants assigned as reps by the member states), plus staff names, are all public information offered on the WTO website, and have been for years.

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