Today, the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection of 2015 (Guidelines 2015) provide an advanced global standard on consumer protection for the purpose of delivering justice to every individual consumer. How are we to understand justice for the consumer, and by what means can this purpose be achieved? Member states have various interpretations and practices. The Guidelines 2015 act as a global regulator albeit in an inherently soft law character. How are we, then, to evaluate the existing process of consumer protection? What are the shortcomings and how do we overcome them?
Without procedures, policy and law would fail in their purposes. Due process is the core - the soul - when it comes to implementing the guidelines. Procedures are necessary to ensure that the issue is channelled to its right conclusion. Good results are achieved only through procedures that are designed with care and understanding. Basic principles include the hearing principle, absence of bias, equality and consistency, structured discretion, reasons for decision, and complaints and appeals. Cost should not be ignored, and this does not only apply to direct cost but also social costs, moral costs, and individual’s costs.
The One Belt One Road Initiative, which includes China and more than seventy other jurisdictions, confronts a significant challenge on cross-border consumer protection. Applying Guidelines 2015 as an international common understanding aimed at harmonising this enormous diversity by international cooperation will be a major step towards achieving that goal. The Oxford team proposes that a special committee of experts on due process be established to assist the process of implementation. Meanwhile, member states, together with UNCTAD, ought to assist in developing and supporting academic research to determine best practice and assist member states in achieving the goal.