Every four years, Consumers International organizes a World Congress event, which convenes 240 consumer groups to meet in an appointed country where it has organizational members. I am fortunate enough to be attending this year’s World Congress in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.
This morning, as the Congress kicked off, we were honored to hear inspiring opening remarks from Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff. Under her administration, Brazil has created a Secretariat for the Defense of Consumers, raising consumer issues to a high level. I was told in my travels in Rio de Janiero that businesses are worried about running afoul of consumers lest they get reported to the federal consumer agency. Now that’s a good thing!
The Brazilian government has also created a website for resolving conflicts between consumers and companies. Apparently, this site operates like a mediation process, and according to the presentations given today, 80 percent of the complaints are solved in 7 days.
President Rousseff also informed us that 40 million citizens were lifted into the middle class from below within last generation. She made the interesting connection between raising living standards and ensuring that the expanded middle class has access to consumer protections when they buy goods and services. She noted that consumer protection is a state policy and stressed her interest in telecommunications and financial services in particular. Additionally, President Rousseff said she is committed to protecting the most vulnerable consumers and consumer rights to privacy, two values that we as the National Consumers League also hold.
It’s been a day of interesting speakers from Africa, South and Central America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Caribbean, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand recommending action plans for consumers. Above all, I found President Rousseff’s remarks a great endorsement of putting consumer protections front and center as the people of this country enjoy greater wealth and prosperity.