On March 15, 1962, President Kennedy addressed Congress and called for everyone to recognize four basic consumer rights — the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard. It’s a message worth repeating.
“This call for consumer rights was a watershed moment in the consumer movement” says Jim Guest of Consumer Reports. “It was a spark that lit a fire under concerned citizens to stand up and get organized. Exactly fifty years ago, Kennedy laid out a vision for consumers that still resonates today, not only here in the United States, but in countries all over the world.”
Kennedy’s call to action inspired Consumers International, the nonprofit organization of more than 220 consumers groups in 115 countries, to observe March 15 as World Consumer Rights Day, an annual event to promote the basic rights of all consumers.
Earlier today, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked his fellow members of the Senate “to give consumers a voice” on World Consumer Rights Day “and every day.” Blumenthal highlighted the anniversary of President Kennedy’s call for a national commitment to protecting consumer interests: “These rights are the foundation of what we now know as the Consumer Bill of Rights.”
In a letter to Consumer Reports, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said those basic consumer rights outlined fifty years today are “at the very core of our mission.” Lebowitz wrote: “Our responsibility is to ensure the scales of business are not tipped against consumers.”
Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum wrote that today is “an ideal time to remember this call to action and to renew our daily commitment to work on behalf of the consumer.”
And Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director (and NBC Studios page) Richard Cordray wrote about the CFPB’s dedication to upholding these consumer principles in its work and “helping consumers better understand the financial marketplace so they can build a better financial future for themselves.”
During his speech, Kennedy reminded Congress that “Consumers, by definition, include us all.” Unfortunately, a number of our current legislators could do with a refresher course on this subject.