Consumers are vulnerable to practices such as: inaccurate use of weights and measures; use of dangerous additives and preservatives in foodstuffs; lack of control of insecticides, pesticides and drug pre-testing; unsafe products (for example, unsafe toys, tyres, television sets and inflammable carpeting); fraudulent and misleading advertising; meaningless product guarantees and warranties; inadequate servicing and complaint handling facilities; inadequate indication of product quality, characteristics and degree of safety; lack of impartial testing services to evaluate and publicize the performance of competing products; uncontested price increases. The range of 'products' consumers can be abused on are: private goods such as cooking stoves; environmental goods like air and water systems; public services such as health or defence; government services in law making; tax-gathering and administration; and moral 'goods', for example the principle of protecting workers' health.
Since the completion of the common market in 1968, the free movement of goods and services in the EEC/EU means that 340 million consumers can choose from the broadest range of goods and services available anywhere in the world. This does not necessarily mean that consumers have been well-protected, informed and organized. Oversupply in a highly competitive market means increasingly that protective measures have to be taken to ensure uniform standards. This has the unfortunate by-product of overreaching cultural norms, reducing consumer responsibility and encouraging vendor malpractice in unregulated situations.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.