2. A Brief Analysis of Consumers’ Right to Information
Article 8 of Consumer Law stipulates that consumers have right to information and defines the scope of such right, where 16 kinds of products are required to be expressly disclosed to consumers. Specific items of Consumers’ Right to Information vary in terms of significance. According to Article 24 and Article 45, Quality, Performance, Use and Period of Validity should be given more stress by operators and consumers, in comparison to other items, as these four involve the core value of products or services, and are the basic appeal and the influence factor for consumers to pay the consideration. If an operator offers misleading or fraudulent publicity, the consumers’ purchasing behavior will be compromised.
Consumer Law doesn’t define the remedy to the infringement on consumers’ right to information.Items 2, 3 and 4 of Article 48 of Consumer Law enumerate the conditions where consumers’ right to information is compromised. The methods of bearing liabilities are shown in Chapter 7 (legal liability) of Consumer Law. Remedies to the infringement on personal rights and interests are stipulated in Articles 48, 49, 50, 51 and 55 of Consumer Law.
In commodity purchase, consumers know far less than operators, necessitating a specialized law to protect rights and interest of consumers and ensure they make informed purchase. Compared to Contract Law, Consumer Law is more specific and elaborate. In the remedy of failure to inform consumers, Consumer Law seems to take recourse to less relevant laws, like Civil Law, Criminal Law and Administrative Law. Yet, Consumer Law has a wider scope of protection than Contract Law. In the issue of civil remedy to consumers, China’s Consumer Law differs from its European counterparts (contract nullity, invalidity, cancellation, relative nullity, partial nullity, extended performance of right of rescission). China’s Consumer Law has not too many regulations on the non-performance of obligations to inform consumers.
Apart from conditions where an operator withholds information or deceives consumers to obtain illegal profits, operators have many problems in what appear to be small criteria, like wrong font or color for commodity names and ingredients that confuses consumers, like the prepackage has no detailed list of ingredients, the list is consistent or the font is not the same, which clouds consumers’ judgment. For instance, when a product is for promotion, the price remains unchanged. The practice of Consumer Law’s Article 8 treats all misconducts the same way without meticulous classification of misconducts is impractical and unreasonable. As a matter of fact, one singular measure for all makes any negligence in any of the business chain (production to purchase) an act of violation.
According to subparagraph one, Article 5 of EU’s directives on consumer rights (2011-83-EU Directive), the European definition of Right to Information (which information affects consumer right) is closer to actual needs. The definition is not some regulation on compulsory standards like the font and size of labels, but detailed description of its contents.
The author of this paper believes that given product quality is up to consumers’ standard, it’s necessary to differentiate between actions that are not helpful to consumers’ right to information and actions that are detrimental to consumers’ right to information. The core of difference between these two lies in whether the right to information involves commodity safety and quality. In other words, Quality, Performance, Purpose, Period of Validity and other aspects that involve quality falls in the range of being detrimental to right to information. If it is just a difference of expression that fails to conform, it falls in the range of being not helpful to right to information. Only by such differentiation can Consumer Law be given full play, so that Consumer Law won’t take singular measures for all. Only by differentiating the concepts can one find the right laws and regulations to apply.