Celebrating World Consumer Rights Day
World Consumer Rights Day is an international day advocated by Consumers International (CI) to promote and commemorate the rights of consumers as first recognized by US President John F. Kennedy on March 15, 1962 (the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to be heard). This year marks the 40th Anniversary.
In Japan, we have established "consumers' rights" as a fundamental principle under the Basic Act on Consumer Policies. This principle was established in 2004, when the former Basic Act on Consumer Protection was replaced by the Basic Act on Consumer Policies through a Diet members' bill, converting it from a law to protect consumers to a law to protect the rights of independent consumers. I was one of the members involved at the time, and actively participated in discussions to reform the Act. I believe that, as a fundamental principle of consumer policy, "consumers' rights" form the basis of a wide variety of frameworks and systems.
Consumer rights come with consumer responsibilities, and CI advocates five responsibilities, including environmental awareness.
The theme of this year's World Consumer Rights Day is "Clean Energy Transitions."
CI has chosen this theme in the context of radical changes in the international energy situation, which have had an especially large impact on vulnerable consumers. Moreover, increasing access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable green energy is also expected to play a vital role in averting catastrophic climate change.
Japan aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to create a sustainable economy and society that provide a secure life for future generations. The key to achieving this goal will be renewable energy: solar, wind, and geothermal power, small and medium-sized hydroelectric power, and biomass power generation.
At the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), we are engaged in disseminating and promoting socially- and environmentally-friendly consumption (sometimes referred to as "ethical consumption" in Japan), including initiatives to pursue regional revitalization and better employment. Encouraging the use of renewable energy is important in the context of promoting ethical consumption. Changes in the consumer behaviors concerning use of energy in daily lives will contribute to achieve carbon neutrality. A survey conducted by the CAA last year indicated a high level of interest in this issue, with approximately 71.2% of consumers responding that they were interested in "climate change" among social issues and social contribution activities. On the other hand, when asked about their experiences purchasing socially- and environmentally-friendly products and services, only 8.7% of respondents had ever purchased electricity sourced from renewable energy. Looking ahead, in addition to encouraging more consumers to show interests in such an issue, and to recognizing the great potential of each individual's consumption behavior to change the future, I hope that each consumer will take action, as we progressively expand our adoption of renewable energy.
The CAA encourages socially - and environmentally - friendly consumption through educational brochures, videos and study materials to promote activities at schools, in local communities, etc., as well as active participation in awareness-raising events organized by businesses. The CAA also promotes initiatives to enhance the dissemination of information through designated websites. The CAA will continue to work together with the relevant ministries and agencies to build a sustainable consumer society.
I wish to send a message here in the hope that this World Consumer Rights Day is an opportunity for all stakeholders to join together in thinking about issues involving consumers.
March 14, 2023
Minister of State for Special Mission (Consumer Affairs and Food Safety)