Luxury of Georgian consumers

Nino Arveladze

It’s hard to talk about protection of consumer rights, when adoption of Law on Food Safety has been postponed for several years.

Moreover, this is not the first time when this happens. Consumer right is one of the most important social rights. Governments of developed countries are paying big attention to these issues. Healthy competition is the best warranty for protection of consumers in a country. Many factors are defining violation of consumers’ rights in Georgia. First, within the framework of neighbouring policy and now of Eastern Partnership program, together with solution of other problems, European Union obliged Georgia to eradicate the reasons that cause violation of the rights of Georgian consumers in various fields. Of course, in case if Georgia actually strives for becoming member of the EU and the country involved in common economic field of Europe.

y the initiative of Georgian-German Institution for Economic Policy and Education, economic-political forum “Tbilisi Balcony” has been held at Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili University, on Nov-25. Professor of Berlin Technical University, Doctor Haikou Stephens was invited to deliver the speech at the forum. Professor has been the head of the Society of German Consumers for years and at the same time, member of the EU Committee on Economic and Social Issues. The program that enables Slovakia to become the member of the EU has been accomplished with his active support and participation. Professor Stephens spoke about important issue for Georgia – “Importance of Consumers’ education and protection for integration in the EU and development”. Professor started the speech with brief historical perspective and recalled an agreement on Partnership and Cooperation signed between Georgia and European Union in 1998. The agreement considers support of Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity that should be a warranty of peace and stability for Europe. In other words, Europe strikes for partnership with strong and legally faultless state. Specific goals of the agreement consider origination of firm foundation for political dialogue between the EU and Georgia, support of market economy for the development of economy of Georgia, broadening of trade, provision of balanced economic relation and development of economy in long-term perspective. Mentioned agreement considers establishment of effective foundation in the following fields necessary for the cooperation of the countries: legislation, economy, social condition, finances, and civil economy. Big idea is standing behind main goals of the agreement – to consider fortune of other countries toward own country in the times of global resistance. Fate of other countries greatly influences fortune of your country. Thus it is necessary for Europe to overcome difficulties in partner countries. The mentioned agreement considers protection of consumers’ rights that implies harmonization of existing laws in Georgia with European one. The same process was observed in case of Poland, Slovakia, and other countries that joined European Union. Legislative equality is one of the preconditions for unification of the countries. It’s too early to discuss Georgia’s membership in the EU, but harmonization of the country’s legislative base and the European one is impeded by postponing of important laws for this process. Protection of consumers’ rights is significant problem for Georgia. We should not comfort ourselves that it is not an urgent issue of the first-priority, as it is involved in unified chain that should lead our country to Europe. Professor Stephens declared that protection of consumers’ right is a very fragile and thorny subject and civil society must be involved in finding solution for this problem.
There are eight basic principles of world consumer rights:
· The right to satisfaction of basic needs – to have access to basic, essential goods and services: adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, public utilities, water and sanitation
· The right to safety – to be protected against products, production processes and services hazardous to health or life. State is undertaking to take care of consumers’ both daily and long-term concerns. State takes the obligation to ensure consumers’ safety by eliminating the goods and services hazardous to life and health are not delivered to the consumers. If this happens state must take corresponding measures and suppress the fact of selling such production.
· The right to be informed- to be given the facts needed to make an informed choice, and to be protected against dishonest or misleading advertising and labelling. Given information about goods and services must be complete and understandable for the consumer.
· The right to chose – to be able to select from a range of products and services, offered at competitive prices with an assurance of satisfactory quality
· The right to be heard – to have consumer interests represented in the making and execution of government policy, and in the development of products and services.
· The right to redress – to receive a fair settlement of just claims, including compensation for misrepresentation, shoddy goods or unsatisfactory services.
· The right to consumer education – to acquire knowledge and skills needed to make informed, confident choices about goods and services, while being aware of basic consumer rights and responsibilities and how to act on them.
· The right to a healthy environment -to live and work in an environment that is non-threatening to the well being of present and future generations.
Consumer education and awareness level is of big importance for the country’s development. It is essential consumers to be aware of their rights and obligations. Representative of Berlin Technical University, co-director of Georgia-German Institution of Economic Policy and Education, Professor Wolfgang Weng spoke about importance of consumer education and protection. He emphasized that Europe is “a place for creation of fruitful, lawful, independent conditions” – that is an important message for us. European Union offers various form of cooperation to Georgia, but the approach is the one – country should realize what the key to economic achievements is and essence of the basis of becoming full-pledged partner for Europe.
The reason of success or failure in protection of consumers’ rights must be sought in the country’s domestic economic and political frames. Protection of consumer right is in direct connection to economic order of the country and thus to the functioning of current and structural policy. The goal of economic order policy is to define frame conditions both for state and private economic activities and achieve correspondence of public values and frame conditions of economic order. Western scientists often refer to the policy of economic order as qualitative policy. The aim of policy derived from it is to make committed influence on market processes by means of short-term state intervention within the framework of existing economic order – declared professor of Tbilisi State University, director of German-Georgian Institution for Economic Policy and Education Mr. Revaz Gvelesiani.
Consumer education is a reflection of social tendency and nowadays, first, this is the political and moral education. It emphasizes that there is quality of human capital defined by quality of education. Liberalization of economy and trade does not implyx endanger to human life and health by consuming hazardous production. Food safety presumption must take place even under the conditions of free market economy. One of the main mechanisms for realizing this is elaboration of standards basing on international practice, their implementation and protection.