Meaning & Definition of Consumerism
Consumerism denotes the attitude of consumers. Consumerism may be described as the organization, activities and attitudes of consumers in their relation to the distribution of goods and services (i.e.,) in exchange relationship between buyers and sellers. It cannot be ignored that consumer dissatisfaction arises in the exchange relationship because the balance of power generally lies with sellers/service providers who are informed, well organized and possess professional knowledge of commerce, finance and industries.
Consumerism gives new emphasis to the consumer’s bill of rights, the Magnacarta of consumers. Consumerism promotes the actions of individuals and organizations in response to consumer’s dissatisfaction arising from exchange relationships. Consumerism aims to preserve the free enterprise economy by making the market work better.
Philip Kotler defines consumerism as “a social movement to augment the rights and powers of the buyers in relation to sellers”1.
Harper W. Boyd, Jr and David E. Allen Jr., state that “although often abused as a term, consumerism may be defined as the dedication o f those activities of both public and private organizations which are designed to protect individuals from practices that impinge upon their rights as consumers”2.
Consumerism as a movement to be effective, efficient and successful must be a movement of the consumers, its success depends entirely on the awareness, consciousness and the responsibilities of the consumers when they act and react in the market. It is solely a matter of ‘consumer behaviour’, the behaviour that the consumers exhibit in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products, services and ideas which they expect will satisfy their needs3.
Objectives of Consumerism
The important objectives of consumerism is the demand for adequate information on quality of products, price, uses of goods, conditions of production and sale, expected performance of goods, safety precautions to be adopted, special care and guidance in case of sophisticated and costly consumer durables. In order to get these ends, consumers use two alternatives viz., collective action in place of individual action and legal protection through consumer legislation.
Objectives of Consumer Movement
Consumer movement has many objectives as outlined below:
- To protect and promote and safeguard consumer citizen interests and welfare.
- To restore the balance in the buyer-seller relations in the market.
- To prevent consumer exploitation by unscrupulous traders.
- To represent consumer interest before government and pressurise government to provide consumer protection measures through legislation.
- To organize consumer resistance against unfair trade practices and promote strong public opinion in favour of fair trade practices.
- To collaborate with government and business enterprises for consumer protection and to undertake programmes of consumer education, consumer information and comparative testing.
- To promote consumer oriented marketing programme by business concerns.
Importance of Consumerism
In a free enterprise economy, the consumer has been regarded as the king. The marketing concept should guide the formulation of business plan in which consumer occupies an important position. This concept, which has been defined as a “customer orientation backed by integrated marketing aimed at generating customer satisfaction as the key to satisfying organization goals, “decrees” we are not the boss: the customer is, what the customer wants, the customer gets”.
But the fact remains that even in the so called affluent and highly developed and competitive economies, the consumer is not a king and when that be the case in shortage economics like India, which are virtually seller’s markets, he is nowhere near even a king without the ‘privy purse’. This situation calls for government measures to ensure consumer awareness and protection of their fundamental rights.
Rights and Responsibilities of consumers
Consumers in advanced countries obviously are much more conscious of their rights than in developing countries like India. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy and in 1965, President Johnson emphasized the importance of consumer rights and gave an impetus to consumerism in U.S.A and other countries.
The important consumer rights are given below:
- The right against exploitation by unfair trade practices.
- The right to protection of health and safety from the goods and services bought or offered freely.
- The right to be informed of the quality and performance standards, the ingredients of the operational requirements, the freshness of the products, the possible adverse side effects and other relevant facts concerning the product or service.
- The right to be heard, if there is any grievance or suggestion.
- The right to get the grievances redressed.
- The right to choose the best from a variety of offers.
- The right to a physical environment that will protect and enhance the quality of life.
If consumers want their rights recognized and enforced, they must know and exercise their responsibilities.
The responsibilities of consumers are outlined below:
- Critical awareness: They have the responsibility to be more alert and questioning about the price and quality of the goods and service they make use of.
- Action: The consumers should be able to assert themselves and act prudently to get a fair deal. If they remain passive, they will be exploited.
- Environment concern: The consumers should be aware of the environmental consequences of their consumption and act keeping in mind their social responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth.
- Social concern: The consumers have the responsibility to be aware of the impact of their consumption on other citizens especially disadvantaged or powerless groups.
- Solidarity: The consumers have got the responsibility to organize together and identify themselves as a team to gain strength to promote and protect their interests and welfare.
For citing this article use:
- Venkattaraman, K. (2008). Efficacy of consumer redressal mechanism in the union territory of Pondicherry.
- Philip Kotler , “Marketing Management” P. 17 (Prientice Hall ofIndia Pvt, Ltd. 1974-New Delhi)
- Ge off Lancaster and Lester Mcissinghan, “Essentials of Marketing”. (the Mac Graw-Hill, U.K. 1988) p.49.
- Philip Kotler “Marketing Management ” (New Delhi, Prentice Hall o f India Pvt. Ltd. 1974 – p. 17)