A consumer is a person or a group who intends to order, orders, or uses purchased goods, products, or services primarily for personal, social, family, household and similar needs, not directly related to entrepreneurial or business activities.
“Consumers, by definition, include us all," President John F. Kennedy offered his definition to the United States Congress on March 15, 1962. This speech became the basis for the creation of World Consumer Rights Day, now celebrated on March 15. In his speech, JFK outlined the integral responsibility to consumers from their respective governments to help exercise consumers' rights, including:
- The right to safety: To be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to health or life.
- The right to be informed: To be protected against fraudulent, deceitful, or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices, and to be given the facts he needs to make an informed choice.
- The right to choose: To be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices; and in those industries in which competition is not workable and Government regulation is substituted, an assurance of satisfactory quality and service at fair prices.
- The right to be heard: To be assured that consumer interests will receive full and sympathetic consideration in the formulation of Government policy, and fair and expeditious treatment in its administrative tribunals.
Economics and marketing
A consumer is one that buys goods for consumption and not for resale or commercial purpose. The consumer is an individual who pays some amount of money for the thing required to consume goods and services. As such, consumers play a vital role in the economic system of a capitalist economy. Without consumer demand, producers would lack one of the key motivations to produce: to sell to consumers. The consumer also forms part of the chain of distribution.
Recently in marketing instead of marketers generating broad demographic profiles and Fisio-graphic profiles of market segments, marketers have started to engage in personalized marketing, permission marketing, and mass customization.
Largely due to the rise of the Internet, consumers are shifting more and more towards becoming prosumer, consumers who are also producers (often of information and media on the social web), influence the products created (e.g. by customization, crowdfunding or publishing their preferences), actively participate in the production process, or use interactive products.
Law and politics
The law primarily uses a notion of the consumer in relation to consumer protection laws, and the definition of consumer is often restricted to living persons (i.e. not corporations or businesses) and excludes commercial users. A typical legal rationale for protecting the consumer is based on the notion of policing market failures and inefficiencies, such as inequalities of bargaining power between a consumer and a business. As all potential voters are also consumers, consumer protection has a clear political significance.
Concern over the interests of consumers has spawned consumer activism, where organized activists do research, education and advocacy to improve the offer of products and services. Consumer education has been incorporated into some school curricula. There are also various non-profit publications, such as Which?, Consumer Reports and Choice magazine, dedicated to assist in consumer education and decision making.
In India, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 differentiates the consumption of a commodity or service for personal use or to earn a livelihood. Only consumers are protected per this act and any person, entity or organization purchasing a commodity for commercial reasons are exempted from any benefits of this act.
- "Special message to Congress on protecting consumer interest, 15 March 1962". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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The consumer protection act 1986 of India, is a little more generous with the word 'Consumer'. According to this law, a consumer is not only a person who uses the product for domestic personal use, but also one who uses the product to earn his daily livelihood.