National Mirror www.nationalmirroronline.net
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Brands & Marketing
Rising need for consumer education in Nigeria E
ducation is a life long process of constantly acquiring relevant information, knowledge and skills. Consumer education is an important part of this process and is a basic consumer right that perhaps should be introduced at basic school levels. Consumers by definition include all citizens who are, by and large the biggest group, who are affected by almost all government, public or private decisions. The most important step in consumer education is awareness of consumer rights. However, consumer education is incomplete without the responsibilities and duties of consumers, and this influences individual behaviour to a great extent. In the contemporary societies, the consumer is always faced with a mass of goods and services that are products of complex and advanced industrial, agricultural and services technologies. The necessary skills to make rational decisions amidst these forces and the complexities of free market economies are often beyond the ability of most consumers. Consumer education is therefore essential to provide the skills and knowledge to empower consumers and enable them to use their resources effectively and increase their awareness of their wider role in society. Consumer education addresses not only problems of consumers individually, but also of sustainable consumption, human rights and ethical values. Consumer education contributes towards the formation of a participative, critical and competent citizenship. The process of development along with the expanding globalisation and liberalisation process has increased the number of consumer related issues. Consumer protection has earned an important place in the political, economic and social agendas of many nations. In Nigeria, the government has taken steps including legislative, to protect consumers. A significant step was the establishment of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) by Act No.66 of 1992, though it commenced operations only when its institutional framework was put in place in 1999. Although the Consumer Protection Council is the apex consumer protection agency of the Federal Goverment of Nigeria, it has become obvious especially in recent time that it cannot function unilaterally but with consumers playing very active roles in developing their own awareness as consumers, as well as producers
Overtime, healthy business practices have been an advantage which favours climes that bother to ensure them. Such practices, more often than not, are underpinned by informed transactions on the part of consumers. ELLA OLAMIJU writes on the need for Nigerian consumers to be more informed in order to build healthier business transaction cultures .
Shoppers at the Idumota market, Lagos.
ALTHOUGH I DON’T KNOW ALL MY RIGHTS, THE LITTLE I KNOW I CAN NOT INSIST BECAUSE IT COULD BE DANGEROUS
maintaining the vital role of providing to a reasonable extent written literature and details about their products and services. Authorities in developing countries have decried the level of consumer awareness in such societies and Nigeria is no exception as was confirmed by the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria’s Lagos officer, Mrs Ngozika Obidike in an interview with National Mirror “ The high level of illiteracy is a serious challenge to our consumer education programmes, we have problems with grassroot penetration because of the significant level of illiteracy in our huge population”. She added that, “ what we do is break relevant information down in major national languages, still many are illiterate so our consumer education programees are fund intensive”. From observation, there appears to be a significant dearth of consumer awareness even amongst the literate public in the Nigerian society, for example, many consumers were observed shopping within Lagos metropolist without even checking expiry dates on the items. When approached
on issues of consumer rights and business transaction laws, many consumers admitted their laccadaisical attitude and lack of knowledge about business transaction laws but attributed such disposition to the long and tasking process of getting redress in Nigeria which surprisingly many were even unaware of. According to Mr. Supo Adeagbo, “ I know that if I report the infringement of my right as a consumer, I will not get justice from it, and even if something is eventually done, I would have lost more money and energy in the process, look at what happens in our court cases it can be frustrating”, but this is only an assumption as Adeagbo has never approached the Consumer Protection Council on any issue but acknowledged having recorded some infringements on his rights. Some other consumers displayed some sense of timidity which appeared imposed by environmental happenings. Mrs Anita Ibe offered that the environment is hostile for such, “ what if you report a company and the government comes hard on them and they send hired killers after you or members of your
family, I don’t think it is worth it around here.” She offered that, “ Although I don’t know all my rights, the little I know I can not insist because it could be dangerous”. It was observed that most consumers spoken to by National Mirror were rather not aware of their rights as consumers nor possess enough information to guard them through healthy transactions. Many didn’t realise the fact that there is an agency to run to. Speaking on the sentiments of consumers, Obidike had reiterated that, “ Total consumer protection is a collective responsibility effort of not just manufacturers , service providers and the government but also of the consumer, they have to be aware and cooperate with us by making complaints appropriately, those who come to us we ensure they get redress within 30 days of filing complaints and sometimes a bit longer but 60 days maximum”. Fact remains that only knowledgeable and alert consumers who are aware of their rights and responsiblities can protect themselves effectively. The need of the hour therefore is to educate the common consumers particularly those in rural areas who are more susceptible to exploitation. Once they are educated and made aware of the schemes that have been drawn up for their benefit and also the redressal forum that is available, the benefit of various schemes, in
true sense, will reach the common consumers of the country. Specifically, consumer education enables individuals to develop the ability to become critical consumers. It teaches people for example to make reasoned appraisal of advertisements and other activities through which consumers are influenced to consume particular products and services. Informed appraisal could include the overall implications, both to the individual and society, of consuming that particular product or service. Through consumer education, consumers are equipped with knowledge, skills and understanding of the market. Consumer education enables consumers to judge and make competent decisions about their financial transactions. Furthermore, marketing communication experts are of the opinion that consumer education stimulates the nation’s social and economic development. Consumers, who exercise free choice based on knowledge of facts, will be able to make the best use of resources within their disposal such as time, money, knowledge and ability. Consumer education enables citizens to act in a more enlightened and critical manner which helps reduce the number of court cases. Consumer education also helps consumers to use scarce resources appropriately and responsibly thus increasing the successes of government development plans. For vulnerable consumers, such as the poor in society, consumer education is of survival importance. Very often, the poor have no option but to live on meagre resources. Consumer education thus, enables them to separate wants from needs and to manage whatever is within their disposal more efficiently. These translate to significant social and economic development of the nation. The Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria states that, “ It is hoped that as consumers become aware of their rights and responsibility, and report any unremedied infringement to the council, the dynamics of a free market economy will be triggered off to generate a better, sustainable, thriving and growing economy in the nation. Such would remove wasteful expenditures, reduce poverty as value for money gets assured.”
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