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Governments, environmentalists, campaigners, industry, and even the marketplace all put pressure on modern consumers. The consumer is accused of excessive consumerism and environmental harm. Customers are also being pushed to be more responsible. The duties and obligations of producers and customers have begun to be articulated in the consumer/seller interaction.
Customers are increasingly expected to take responsibility for exercising their individual and collective rights and demonstrating responsibility toward the environment, other consumers, and future generations through their attitudes and behavior patterns.
While we all prefer to be aware of and utilize our rights, we sometimes place different emphasis and urgency on our consumer obligations. Consumer rights and obligations are inextricably linked, and consumers will struggle to enjoy their rights in the long run if they do not share consumer responsibility. Consumer responsibility has evolved due to ethical and ecological truths about consumer behavior.
Hence, consumer accountability is founded on ethics and logic. There is no final list of consumer obligations, and a consumer must apply restraint in the responsible consumption of commodities. For example, customers cannot be compelled to protect the environment, but they must make a conscientious effort to minimize consumption, pick environmentally friendly alternatives, and conserve energy.
A responsible consumer uses his or her discretion while fully conscious of the ramifications of his or her right to choose and is accountable or answerable to other customers and the environment for purchasing decisions. Consumer responsibility may be broken down into three stages. Initially, the customer was assumed to be only concerned with price, knowledge, and the manufacturing of consumer products. In the second phase, the informed consumer confronted giant firms and their marketing methods, advocating for the consumer cause.
Consumer Rights Organizations
The customer must be aware of the environmental consequences of each product on the market shelf in the third and present phase, as well as his/her obligations and responsibilities as a consumer and citizen. The issue of customer priority is currently the most pressing topic. In other words, this refers to what the customer should seek, whether it is cheaper and more easily accessible items or fair trade procedures, environmental costs, and public health.
Anwar Fazal, then-president of CI (Consumer International), called for introducing a set of consumer duties to supplement consumer rights in the 1980s. Even now, many consumer rights organizations adhere to the following principles −
Critical Awareness − Customers must be awakened to be more skeptical about the quality of goods and services.
Involvement or Action − Consumer involvement or action is required to ensure that they receive a fair offer.
Social Responsibility − Consumers must behave with social responsibility, care, and awareness of the influence of their activities on other people, particularly disadvantaged groups in the community and the current economic and social circumstances.
Ecological Responsibility − Ecological responsibility entails heightened awareness of the influence of consumer actions on the physical environment, which must be developed harmoniously, with conservation promoted as the most crucial aspect in enhancing the actual quality of life for the present and future.
Solidarity − The most effective and successful approach is to build consumer/citizen organizations that can work together to guarantee that enough attention is paid to the consumer's interests.
Consumer responsibility may help not just to regulate the market but also to limit needless consumption. It is more than just the job of the market or the government to offer thorough information to customers. A consumer must try to educate himself about the product or service.
For example, suppose a customer purchases a health product. In that case, he must try to educate himself about its potential adverse effects and exercise prudence regarding his eating habits, nutrition, and physical activity to benefit entirely from the product. Different customer categories must share consumer responsibility. Each group has a distinct customer profile and consumption habits. These patterns specify the type of consumer duty that a customer must fulfil.
Citizen as Consumer
For our purposes, we must investigate the Citizen as a Consumer notion. As a consumer, a person's range of activities and interactions extends from his or her house to the marketplace. Nevertheless, as a citizen, his/her field of action widens to include not just what he/she may transport from the market to his/her home for personal consumption but also what he/she can give back to society and the environment.
This includes action and the decision not to behave in a predetermined or accepted manner. For example, as a consumer of market items, he or she has some duty for rubbish disposal. If he/she owns a car, he/she immediately bears responsibility for reducing pollution to the greatest extent feasible, either by opting to use it only when required or by applying lead-free paint (unleaded petrol).
The following are some areas where consumer action may influence the market to respond more to the customer. When purchasing, the consumer should always examine the exact weights and measures, manufacturing and expiration dates, price and ingredient labeling, quality markings (ISI, Agmark, Eco-mark), warranties and guarantees, and so on. This is the first component of the consumer's civic responsibility.
His/her second level of duty is to the environment, which is worldwide, making him/her a global citizen. This entails being conscious of the environmental consequences. For example, the usage of CFC-free air conditioners and freezers. It also entails consciously rejecting non-biodegradable packaging and using chemicals as little as possible at home.
Understandings what constitutes an "ethical consumer" are not always easy. Ethics refers to the ideals, principles, or norms of behavior that a person, community, or civilization adheres to. It is a value science, and by applying these principles, consumers may mobilize responsible actions in industry, government agencies, and the marketplace.
In the entire meaning of the word, Ethical consumers are people who choose one product over another for political, religious, spiritual, environmental, social, or other reasons. They regularly debate who is right and who is wrong. They all have one thing in common: they are concerned about the consequences of their purchase decisions, not just on themselves but also on the environment around them.
The ethical consumer purchases and invests acceptably and ethically. Pricing is not his/her primary goal; ethical behavior implies doing what is right and good in most situations for most people. A green consumer is also an ethical customer.
Methods of Inculcating Consumer Responsibility
An alert, informed, and responsible consumer is a valuable asset to the country. Educational institutions, parents, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, and government agencies are all accountable for instilling responsible consumer behavior in young citizens.
The correct consumer educators can educate you on exercising choice, making value-oriented decisions, seeking quality, and avoiding deception. Responsible Consumer behavior may be instilled in children by teaching them how to utilize public services and utilities, such as electricity and water conservation, which can be taught at home and in schools.
Nutritional health education might help you become a more responsible shopper. Another topic that may be taught is reducing pollution and preserving green spaces in and around the house and workplace. All laws can only help us if we recognize our supreme veto power of denying substandard items and utilizing our rights to receive the best rather than settling on substandard products supplied by merchants, producers, and salespeople.
Until recently, the consumer was seen to be a passive unit of the market economy. The manufacturers controlled and managed the market to exploit customers on all fronts. Nevertheless, recent goods have increased consumer awareness and education, alerting people worldwide to market forces' overt and covert objectives.
A marketplace is no longer just a location for vendors. It is also a location impacted by consumer behavior, which is growing more responsible. The customer is appropriately armed to take on the market thanks to robust regulation, government contributions to standardization development, and volunteer organization activity.
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