What rights are held by consumers in the United States? Give a specific example and a reason why this right should be protected.
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The right to expect food products to meet safety and quality standards is the first thing that comes to my mind. I never really thought about this until I traveled to Romania in 1991. Their government had just collapsed; they didn't already have substantial food quality and safety standards before that, and while I was there, it was "anything goes."
If you went to a restaurant, supermarket, or fresh foods market, you had to roll the dice. For example, if you ordered a "Coke" in a restaurant, you might get a canned, sealed Coca-Cola imported from Russia, which you could trust. Or you might get a soft drink of unknown origin that was poured into an old Pepsi bottle, with no seal.
I don't know if you can call this a "right", but consumers should be protected from unfair business practices. What I am actually thinking about is monopolies. Basically, a monopoly is a business with no competition. Without competition, a business can charge consumers whatever they want, which is unfair to the consumer. The government has a long history of protecting consumers from the unfair business practices of monopolies and trusts going back to Theodore Roosevelt who was known as a "trust buster". Today, the government continues to do this. Whenever two large companies merge, they must get the government’s approval to make sure that a monopolistic situation isn’t created by the merger.
Along the same lines as the above response, all meat products in the United States that are sold for human consumption have to be inspected by a government agency, the United States Department of Agriculture. Now while that agency has many other roles as well, you've probably heard of "USDA Prime" or "USDA Choice" labels that are affixed to specific grades of beef. This protects the consumers from the bad old days when there were no rules on what kind of beef could be sold, conditions it needed to be stored in, or even whether it was beef at all. Since it is impossible for consumers to constantly monitor food production themselves, we rely on the government - since it is a neutral third party most of the time - to inspect it for us.
This right should be protected because if the rules and restrictions were removed, it would be cheaper for the beef companies to cut corners, endangering human health.
While there might not be an exact construction of a Consumer's Bill of Rights, I think that there are some entitlements to which an American consumer can expect to possess. One such right is the right to public safety and not be endangered by the presence of a product. For example, a while back, it was discovered that there was a high level of lead in products manufactured in China. Once this was discovered, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration demanded a recall of such products and enforced higher standards on the examination of imports from China. This is an example of how consumers possess a right to be free from toxic chemicals in their products and how their right to be informed by their governing body is essential. Right now, there is an interesting situation regarding consumer rights in the situation with the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf. As the toll of the spill in the region grows, people who make their livelihood off of the region are literally becoming an endangered species. Some have even committed suicide because of the financial toll that the oil spill has taken on their livelihoods. Some argue that these consumers have a right to take BP to court and to demand financial compensation, while others argue that this creates unfair burdens placed on businesses. This might be another arena where questions about whether or not consumers possess rights and how these entitlements can be defined can be raised.
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