– CONSUMER PRESSURE –
Consumer pressure is one of the natural phases of an advanced industrial society. As a society reaches a certain stage in development, concern over consumer issues makes itself felt. The United States led the way, other countries gradually followed suit. The Consumers’ Union of the United States was founded in the 1920’s; Ralph Nader began to make himself known as the American consumer spokesman in the 1960s when he attacked the American car industry in his book Unsafe at any Speed.
He succeeded in getting certain cars withdrawn from sale to the general public. He followed this by investigating other areas where the consumer was at a disadvantage as a result of decisions by manufacturers, retailers or government. He has been spectacularly successful, largely because as a lawyer he knows how to function within the American legal system.
His effect on British development has principally been as an example. Very close parallels cannot be drawn, because the British legal system is different. Until recently, confrontation and direct action has not been the British way of settling matters; settlement has been reached by gentlemanly chats and invitations to lunch and a visit to the works or factory afterwards. This combination of factors has a lot to do with the reasons why consumer action in this country has only come alive over the last decade or so.
Nevertheless, inflation has also had a hand in it. The price of buying equipment for one’s life and home comes to be questioned at a time of rapid inflation and uncertain economic growth. The goods and services are available in ever-increasing abundance but for many individuals the money doesn’t go round them all. The pressure on incomes both from inflation and from the wide attractive range of goods on which money can be spent means that people begin to look more critically at prices. Having spent their money, they resent the occasions when there is some cause to complain about goods or services which do not come up to expectations.
And on attempting to complain, they find themselves too often defeated by the stone wall of manufacturers’ and retailers’ indifference to complaints. So then consumer action started. People with a complaint wrote to a person whom they could identify in some way: their MP, a journalist, a broadcaster. As these letters continued to come in, the politicians and the media began to realise that there was a problem area, an area where people come up against difficulties which they cannot handle. In trying to sort out some of the complaints, they discovered just how difficult the situation is, how hard it is to complain, and how much specialised knowledge is required.
This consumer protection action began to achieve a popularity it had never known before and began to attract support from the media and in Parliament.
Mark the best choice.
1. Obviously, consumer pressure .
a) is the product of an advanced society b) reaches a certain ievei naturally in all societies
c) is a purely American feature of industrial life d) is the natural result of social progress
2. Ralph Nader’s success results from .
a) his detailed knowledge of the American automobile industry
b) the fact that he is American
c) his knowledge of American law
d) his contacts within the American government
3. What influence has Nader had on the growth of British consumer protection action?
a) He has shown the way. b) All his methods have been closely copied.
c) British laws have been changed to protect car buyers. d) He founded the British Consumer Protection Society.
4. In Britain, consumer action has been held back until recently because of
a) problems with language b) more indirect methods of dealing with customer problems
c) the aggressive attitudes shown by manufacturers d) too few confrontations between management and work-force
5. How has inflation affected consumer attitudes in Britain?
a) I* is now impossible for people to decide what to buy.
b) Manufacturers are being constantly criticised by their customers.
c) People now spend much more money on things for the home.
d) Consumers are now more critical about the quality of products.
6. The consumer protection in Britain began to get support from the media and in the Parliament because .
a) it is difficult to get politicians interested in the problem
b) they realised that making a complaint was a complex procedure
c) it is often impossible to identify a particular complaint
d) complaints can only be properly handled in the Parliament