A consumer is an individual who pays to consume goods and services for personal use. A consumer is someone who is in a position to take decision whether to buy an item, where to buy and when to buy. A consumer plays an important role in the distribution chain because he/she is the end user, his/her demands encourages the producers to produce goods. There are lots of challenges facing today’s consumer. Many new products are in the market for consumption, the consumer has to decide how to get the best value for his money, which at the same time puts the consumer in a state of confusion.
Being a wise consumer is important; it will help the consumer to avoid advertising traps and as a result, forms a prudent shopping habit. To be a wise and satisfied consumer there is need to acquire knowledge and skills needed in managing consumer resources and taking actions to influence the factors which affect consumer decisions through consumer education.
Consumer education is teaching individuals about various consumer goods and services, covering prices, what the consumer can expect, standard and consumer rights. In other words, consumer education can be defined as the process of assisting an individual towards gaining the knowledge and skills needed managing consumer resources.
Importance Of Consumer Education
1. It enables an individual to gain knowledge to act as informed consumer.
2. It exposes the consumer to knowing where and how to purchase goods and services to satisfy personal and family needs.
3. Consumer education helps the consumers to recognize that it is important to be an informed consumer.
4. It enables the consumer to assess consumer information.
5. It assist the consumer to master skills so as to function as informed and responsible consumer.
6. It develops an understanding of the specific role of consumer and the function of the entire society.
Rights Of The Consumer
Consumers have rights which protect them from hazardous products. When consumers use products they are not satisfied with, it is their right that will give them the boldness to voice out complaints to the sellers or the manufacturers. The law demands that producers should put labels on their goods and not to produce any product that will be harmful to the consumers.
The following are the Eight Universal Rights Of Consumers; they are universal because they are regarded as human rights.
1. Right To Be Heard: Consumers have the right to speak out when the product they used did not give them the required satisfaction.
2. Right To Information: Through advertisement and labels consumers are exposed to varieties of products in the market. The law protects them from false and misleading advertisement and labeling. They have the right to be given the facts and information needed to make an informed choice or consumption.
3. Right To Safety: Products must be well patterned to avoid any kind of harmful effect to the consumer.
4. Right To Choice: There are great varieties of goods and services. Consumers have the right to choose any thing that suits them.
5. Right To Consumer Education: Consumers have the right to acquire knowledge and skills that will make them to be informed and wise consumers.
6. Right To Redress: Consumers seek for redress when they have problems with a particular product or services; in this case, what has gone wrong can corrected. The consumer can be compensated if there is need for it.
7. Right To Basic Needs: Basic and prime commodities must be made available for the consumers at affordable prices and of good standard.
8. The Right To Healthy Environment: This is the right to live and work in an environment that is neither threatening nor dangerous, and which permits a life of dignity and well-being.
Challenges Of The Consumer
Government and non-governmental organization have made a lot of effort to protect the consumers. The law demands that consumers should not be deceived or harmed in anyway by the goods and services they are paying for. In spite of all this, consumers are still facing a lot of challenges ranging from false information to exploitation.
The following are some of the challenges of the consumer:
1. Problem Of Adulteration: This is where illegal manufacturers adulterate popular brand brand names. This is a major problem to consumers. They find it difficult to differentiate the original from fake products.
2. Unsteady Supply: Consumer faces unsteady supply. Most times the irregularities are caused by marketers. They store commodities waiting for a particular time to sell it at a higher price thereby making consumers to suffer.
3. Wrong Weight And Measures: Most times standard weights and measurements are not used in the market. Traders sometimes reduce or pad-up their measuring cup to cheat the consumers; manufacturers in their own case paste wrong weights on the packets also to deceive consumers and make more profit.
4. Misleading Advertisements: There are great varieties of products in the market that serve the same purpose. Manufacturers advertise for the sales of their products. In the bid to sell, they exaggerate the quality of their products to attract consumers instead of giving the correct details of quality of the product.
5. Lack Of Information: Sometimes consumers do not get accurate and timely information. Often times, manufacturers change their trade names and packs without informing the consumers properly, and this affects the consumer negatively.
6. Variation In Prices: In our markets today prices are not the same. The consumer pays different prices for the same goods/services at different places. In this case the consumer does not even know when he is paying the correct price.
7. Malpractices By The Manufacturers Or Sellers: This is a big problem to consumers. Sometimes sellers hoard goods making it difficult for consumers to have access to these goods. Manufacturers may lure the consumer to buy product claiming that there is discount of some percentage, or that they improved on the quality, when in reality they did not do anything.
8. Not Heard Properly: Consumers often times do not get satisfactory answers and prompt redress when they have problems with products bought.
9. Product Identity: Consumers are faced with the task of identifying which product is real, original or fake. There are many fake, inferior or substandard goods and services in the market. Producers of inferior products circumvent government laws and laws of conscience to engage in unwholesome practices. Some of these fake products cause death, systems breakdown, injuries to the body, environment hazards or pollution, extra expenses and fear among buyers and consumers despite trade marks, brand names, Custom And Excise Duties, International Book Series Numbers (ISBN), Copyright Safeguards, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Seals, NAFDAC (National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control) requirements, SON’s (Standards Organization Of Nigeria) inspection and those of Consumer protection Council (CPC),
Many producers of goods and services engage in rendering or production of illicit or substandard services and commodities. The helpless consumer bears the brunt of these unwholesome acts as some of these producers of fake products provide the consumer with imitations which have all the features of original goods and services where as they are not.
Redress Options For Consumers
Owing to the ill-intention of some marketers to cheat, dupe and exploit a customer, the government has put in place some redress options. Because of the rights granted the consumer, there are policies and mechanisms put in place to protect the consumer. These redress options are:
The Setting Up Of The Regulatory Bodies: These are bodies empowered by law to promote and enforce standardization, regulate price regime, and quality assurance. These include the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), the Standard Organization Of Nigeria (SON), the Copyright Commission (CRC), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Commission (PPPRC), National Agency For Food And Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC), Marketing Boards for price regulation of farm produce among others.
2. The Existence Of Civil Courts: These are courts of law that have competent jurisdiction over petitions and litigation involving breaches of rights, harm and damages done to others. The principal arbitrating officers being court clerks, court registrars, bailiffs, Commissioners of Oath, Lawyers, Magistrates and judges. The court ensures that right things are done, redresses are made and compensations paid.
They also fine, warn, caution, detain and imprison offenders to prevent people from abusing privileges, engaging in impunities and practicing illegalities. The problems associated with courts adjudication of cases are endless adjournment of cases, strikes of judicial workers, so many injunctions, language or procedural technicalities which lead to unnecessary prolongation of matters and even denial of justice. Hence the adage: justice delayed is justice denied.
iii. The Law Enforcement Agents: The police, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Customs, the immigration Service, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and in some cases the Nigerian Armed Forces. These agencies arrest and help in the prosecution of offenders. Often, they are empowered to mediate and settle cases which are merely civil in nature. Only the Court tries and settles criminal cases.
iv. Various Market Associations: Every field of business, marketing and production has unions, organizations or associations which regulate the excesses of members adjudicate on matters pertaining to members, policy infringements, pricing, complaints from clients or consumer; enforce government directives and maintain peace and order. The professional service providers such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, architects, etc can suspend, fine, deregister, ban defaulting members or even have their practicing licenses revoked or withdrawn. Producers can sanction erring members and even seal off their production sites or factories to serve as deterrence to others.
Procedure For Seeking Redress
A consumer who is not satisfied with services rendered to him/her by the service provider has the right to lodge in complaint to the appropriate regulatory body which is Consumer Protection Council (CPC).
The first step the consumer needs to take is to seek redress with the service provider whose services or products he was not satisfied with. If the consumer is dissatisfied with the way issues were resolved by the service provider, the consumer has the right to report to the Consumer Protection Council for fair hearing and settlement.
Procedure for seeking redress through Consumer Protection Council (CPC):
i. The complaint must in writing and addressed to the state committee of the consumer protection council.
ii. It must be noted that the breach or dissatisfaction being complained about was as a result of the use of any goods, products or services.
iii. The committee will take up the complaint through the right process.
iv. When it is proved that the consumer is right, the consumer will have a right of civil action for compensation or restitution in any competent court.