Whenever we hear about consumer rights, we must look closely, because there is sure to be a “consumer activist” in the area. What is this activist doing and what is their goal?
According to definition, consumer activism is undertaken on behalf of consumers to assert consumer rights. Goals can include making products or services that are directed at consumers safer, of better quality as well as making them more readily available. The ideal goal is to push consumers to question the morality of a purchased product's origins.
Consumer activist tactics can include boycotts, petitioning the government, media activism, and organising interest groups
The most common tactic is to have protest marches in order to gain political influence (make the politicians listen). By gaining this influence, the group gains new political opportunities as well as access to resources such as donor money, to use for their benefit. This in turns allows for funding of further activities to protest and get the message heard.
One of the most important decisions by a consumer protection group must be the identification of a visible, clear, and despicable target that will allow for unification and mobilisation of consumers.
In Namibia, there are many businesses (and their products) that make consumers angry. In an informal survey, they most common culprits are banks, insurance companies and government. As for products, the most often cited is the lack of control on freshness of products, be they fruit and vegetables, milk or bread.
The most vexing question must remain however, what power do consumers have. It is easy to advocate not “banking for a day”, or not buying from a certain retailer, but this would need concerted effort from all consumers, not just the activists.
Consumers need to stand up for their rights. Government has to enact legislation to protect consumers, AND punish businesses that do not comply.
The Namibia Consumer Protection Group is holding a protest march on 15 March 2010 to push for recognition of this day as Consumer Rights Day.
You can join the Namibia Consumer Protection Group on Namibia Consumer Protection Group or at NCPG on Facebook.