We have eight basic rights as consumers. A consumer is someone who purchases goods or services for personal use.

These rights were first outlined in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The Consumer Rights Act asserts that every customer, or consumer, deserves fair and honest treatment from businesses and to have these rights protected by the government.

The first is the right to basic needs. This right demands that people have access to the basic essential goods and services needed to survive – such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation. It is the duty of the government to take care of their people. As consumers who do have our basic needs met, we need to remember and understand that there are people in our community, our country and across the world who are not getting their basic needs met and they are not surviving. They have this right just as much as we do.

The second right we have is the right to safety. This means that as consumers we have the right to be protected from the marketing of goods or services that are harmful to our health and life. We have the right to be defended against injuries caused by products, and this right implies that products should cause no harm to the user if the product is used correctly as prescribed.

There are thousands of commercial products that must meet performance standards and that require product testing and warning labels for our protection.

The third is the right to be informed. Businesses need to provide consumers appropriate truthful information so we can make intelligent and informed choices.

Businesses should always be completely authentic and genuine and should not give consumers misleading information, especially in the areas of finance, advertising, labeling and packaging.

We have the right to know the facts, and our right to be informed is protected by more than one piece of legislation.

The fourth right we have is the right to choose. As consumers we have the right to choose which products we want to purchase from among various quality products at competitive prices.

No one business is allowed to monopolize the market. The federal government ensures through legislation that we have a healthy competitive market open to competition with limits on ownership, monopolistic business practices, and the outlaw of price cutting and gouging.

Our fifth right as consumers is the right to representation (which has nothing to do with legal representation in a court of law). This is our right to express our interests in the making and execution of government policies regarding consumerism. Consumer interests must be heard, represented and considered in the formation of new products. Businesses and brands must listen to their customer’s complaints and opinions.

The sixth right of consumers is the right to redress, which simply means the right to compensation or a remedy of a wrong or a grievance. If a product is defective or was misrepresented, shoddy, or defective, the consumer needs to take it back to the business where it was purchased and has the right to have the product replaced, refunded or repaired.

If a business refuses to do this, the consumer has options to go above their head to an agency that has the power to do something about the problem.

Next, consumers have a seventh right – the right to consumer education. We have the right to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become informed customers. We are allowed to attend seminars, conferences, training and public hearings.

Other things available to us daily include our local newspapers, magazines, television and news sources. If there is a problem a consumer cannot resolve, they can start with a letter to their editor.

And finally, the last eighth right of consumers is the right to a healthy environment. Who wants to live in an environment where the business down the road is polluting the air so bad that we can’t open our windows or breath clean air? They cannot damage the air to the point of causing threatening or dangerous issues to our life or health. We have the right to live in an environment that is neither dangerous nor threatening and which permits a life of dignity and well-being.

When this law went into effect, the government began exerting an iron hand regarding the alarming increase in the degradation of the environment – especially forests, oceans, dying wildlife, depleted landfill space and other environmental damage. There has been constant monitoring of the seas, coral reefs, forests and waste disposal committed by factories to prevent any violations.

Knowing your rights is just the beginning. As consumers we need to be aware of issues in our community that might damage the environment and then we need to be diligent to do something about it. Air pollution and noise pollution are just a couple of examples. And every consumer should do their share to reduce, reuse and recycle.

These are just a few of the ways we as consumers can fight back against big business practices that harm our environment and our health.