You may have heard the term “consumer advocacy” before, but you may not know what it means. Consumer advocacy, simply put, is a mixture of public awareness and activism on behalf of the consumer meant to make the public aware of defective, subpar, or even dangerous consumer goods. For decades, consumer advocates have fought for the rights of consumers in order to protect them against unfair business practices and unsafe products. From faulty car tires to asbestos in buildings, defective products can be very dangerous if unexposed or unchecked.
That’s where consumer advocacy comes in to play. Using a variety of methods — publications, boycotts, petitions, legislation, public speeches, etc. — consumer advocates pressure businesses, manufacturers, advertisers, and politicians to make products safer, more reliable and more affordable. They help protect against unscrupulous business practices and unfair pricing and serve as valuable resources for consumers in the United States and around the world.
Consumer advocacy has been around for more than half a century, beginning roughly around the 1950s and expanding in scope ever since. From the Better Business Bureau to the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine), consumer advocacy groups work tirelessly to make products safer and more affordable to the public.
Why do you need consumer advocacy? Here are a few reasons:
• Product Safety: Making products safe is a top priority of consumer advocacy groups. In the past, businesses have sold products that were misrepresented, faulty, and even dangerous. You wouldn’t want to be stuck with an air conditioning unit that explodes on you, would you? Consumer advocates do tremendous research into product safety and release that information to the public (such as in Consumer Reports).
• Reliability: In addition to making products safer, they make them more reliable. Some businesses may make available products that suffer from a quality perspective in that breakage or premature wear may occur shortening the life of the product. Consumer advocates work to ensure that products are not just safe, but also reliable, provide great value and that they meet advertised and stated claims put forth by the business.
• Government Regulation: Consumer advocates such as Ralph Nader have spurred the development of government agencies that review product safety and pricing. The U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, was created in 1971 in order to investigate consumer complaints, launch consumer surveys, and release information to the public.
For many reasons, consumer advocacy is here to stay — and will play an important role for many years to come for the protection of consumers.
iCAN4Consumers believes in the rights of consumers and supports consumer advocacy especially as it relates to shopping online.
One of our primary goals is to reduce the cost of doing business for both consumers and merchants across the entire e-commerce ecosystem.