The MGP International Webinar on Post-COVID Global Consumer Protection

On July 10th 2020, a webinar organised by Mumbai Grahak Panchayat took place to discuss the prospect and implications of UNGCP i.e. United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection, on consumer protection issue across the globe. The objective being the challenges and changes the consumers as well as consumer protection agencies might face post-pandemic, with the designated panel consisting Mr. Shirish Deshpande (Chairman, MGP), Mr. Robin Simpson (Consumer Policy Adviser, UN), Ms. Teresa Moreira (UNCTAD, Geneva) and Dr Bal Phondke (Scientist & President of MGP) as key speakers.

The opening speech was made by the chairman of MGP, Mr Shirish Deshpande. He referred to the recent issue of flight ticket refund faced by consumers in the wake of pandemic as the airlines refused to refund the charges and offered rescheduling instead. He further added how this enraged the passengers and how the guidelines of UNGCP resolved the issue, directing the airlines to refund. Mr Deshpande highlighted the significance of UNGCP and UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) advisory through the incident and raised his concerns over the Post-COVID scenario as far as consumer’s protection is concerned.

Later on, Mr Robin Simpson discussed the significance and implications of UNGCP post-2015 and raised his concerns over lack of universality of the same. He further applauded the recent developments in India regarding sanitation issue and reiterated the WHO’s warning of other possible pandemics due to over consumption of antibiotics which apparently diminishes the effect of traditional medicine. He emphasized on the physical strengthening of consumers for a bright tomorrow.

Ms Teresa Moreira further took on the webinar to discuss the role of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Post-COVID scenario and enumerated certain goals regarding the cause of sustainable development. She stressed on the significance of inter-dependency and need of collaborations among different Consumer Protection Agencies (CPAs) right from the regional level to international level.

Dr Bal Phondke stressed on how this pandemic is going to impact and change the consumer behaviour. He further iterated the drastic change in the consumer preferences we might experience and remarked on the changing basic needs of livelihood of masses amid this pandemic which, according to him, is shifting to be healthcare, food and connectivity through internet. He further stated the importance of legislative backing in to efficiently implement the CPAs guidelines.

The webinar was concluded with some Q&As, most specifically of Mr Anil Kakodkar, Padma Vibhushan awardee nuclear physicist, who raised his concerns over rising global disparity and the need of a healthy and non-exploitative configuration to contain the issue, to which both Mr Simpson and Ms. Moreira shared their insights, pointing out the corruption in subsidization and the need of concrete public policy respectively, concluding it in an informative way. As an audience, it was enlightening to witness these scholars talking about the collective good amid this crisis. Acknowledgement is the first step towards a concrete change and these talks are what paves the way for a better tomorrow.

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