Consumerism is a social force to make business more honest and responsible towards consumers. It makes the consumers aware of their rights and also pressurizes the government to adopt the necessary measures to protect consumer interests.
Consumers are often denied their rights in the process of selling. Sellers want consumers as buyers and not as complainants. So, the position of the consumer has been rather weak in relation to the seller. In this regard, consumerism should be regarded as a movement with the involvement of public and the government to protect the rights and interests of the consumers.
Consumerism may be defined as a social movement of consumers seeking redress, restitution and remedy for dissatisfaction that they have accumulated in the purchase of products / service and their performance.
Reasons for Consumerism
The major causes for the evolution of consumerism have been the continuous rise in prices, underperformance of product, quality of the service, Shortage of product and deceptive advertising.
1. Rising prices: The value of a rupee was a rupee in 1949 matching its full face value. But now it is worth less than 10 paise. The pricing theory holds that price is directly related to quality and quantity. But prices of mass consumer goods such as soaps, tooth paste etc., are 10% — 20% above the real prices. So, often dealers earn a good margin of profit and create an artificial demand for them.
2. Adulteration: Unscrupulous traders indulge in adulteration. They make illegitimate and abnormal profit through adulterated products. Adulteration involves cheap ingredients mixed with the product intended for sale. Such adulterated product is detrimental to health. A survey says about 25 to 35% of the food we eat today is adulterated. Presence of stones in grains, cheaper fats in ghee, mixing of coconut oil with palmoleins etc., are common in adulteration. They all leave behind harmful effects on consumers.
3. Duplication: Duplicates are made for all types of products like automobile components, medicines, blades, pens, watches; clothes and even currency notes. Consumers are not able to differentiate the original products from duplicates. Duplicate products are available through wide marketing network undertaken by dishonest traders. Some home made products are stamped “Made in Japan”, “Made in USA” just to lure the consumers.
4. Artificial demand: When the price of a product is steadily increasing, some traders buy in bulk and hoard them. They put up a sign “No stock” in front of their shops, though stocks are in abundance with them. As a result, consumers pay higher prices because of the artificial scarcity created. In certain cinema houses, selling tickets in black is quite common. Though seats may be vacant, these theaters will be claiming “full house“. But the sale in ‘black‘ will be very brisk outside the theater.
5. Sub-standard products: Substandard products are made using inferior raw materials or by cutting short the required production processes. After a product is well received in the market, some manufacturers deliberately downgrade the quality of the product without reducing the price. Customers cannot inspect the goods as they are packed and sealed. Only after the use of the goods purchased, they will be in a shock.
6. Product risks: Some products are valid or potent only for a particular period. Example: medicines, drugs, fruits, etc. On the expiry of a particular period, consumption of such items proves to be detrimental to health.
7. Misleading Advertisements: Misrepresentation of facts, false claims, cheating do occur in advertising. An advertiser may make a tall claim about the usefulness of his product, just to lure the consumers to buy them, whereas the product may not be as useful. So, consumers should be protected against deceptive advertisements.
8. Warranty and service: At the time of sale, sellers guarantee a good performance of the product they sell. If a product becomes defective after being sold, buyers are not given any remedy for the defect noticed in the goods. In such cases, remedy is available through consumer redressal forums.
9. Fitness of products: Salesmen are supposed to assist the buyers in making wise selection of goods. The products that buyers buy must suit their needs. Product fitness refers to product quality, durability and suitability in relation to the purchase objective of the consumers. But most of the goods are sold by pressurizing the buyers.
10. Consumer exploitation:
Consumers are exploited in the following ways:
1. Supply of sub-standard materials
2. Goods that fall short of the actual weight claimed
3. High prices charged for goods and services
4. False advertisements
5. Artificial scarcity to earn abnormal profit
6. Hoarding and black marketing of goods
7..Cheating through contests, puzzles, etc.
8. Ingenuine mail order sale
9. Denying free repair or replacement during guarantee period
10. Adulteration of goods.
11. Problems of assembling products: Products of the modern days are a combination of many products assembled to perform a special function. For example, television, clocks, computers, household appliances, etc. Several such components are not visible to the eye and therefore cannot be inspected by the consumers. Even if they can be inspected, consumers may lack the technical knowledge to assess them.
12. Augmenting rights and powers of buyers: In a free democratic society, sellers have certain rights subject to the condition that the buyers are provided with safe and healthy products. In the same manner the buyers have certain rights. They have the right to expect the product to be safe and worth the price they pay. But these traditional rights of the buyers are not enough to maintain a power balance between the buyer and seller, where the consumers could not get complete and genuine information about the products they buy. The genesis of the consumer movement lies in expanding consumer rights.