While U.S. designers, manufacturers, and retailers have a number of responsibilities to consumers when they make and market products, consumers also have a handful of responsibilities to themselves.
When both corporations and consumers are accountable for the products they make and use, fewer accidents, injuries, and other types of harm occur. It’s critical for consumers to own their rights and responsibilities, so these can be exercised when and as needed.
As an American consumer, you have the responsibility to:
1. Be Aware
First and foremost, consumers have the responsibility to be reasonably aware of the products and services they are purchasing. For most products or services, it’s reasonable to expect that the majority of consumers can read labels, understand universal warning signs, and interpret instructions for use.
Therefore, if a manufacturer or retailer places information about the product or service on its label or in an advertisement and makes this data readily available, it is the consumer’s responsibility to make themselves aware of it.
However, if a manufacturer uses false advertising tactics or hides information about a product in a way that a consumer cannot be reasonably expected to read or understand the data, they may be liable for any injuries or damages that occur as a result.
2. Think Independently
Consumers should be able to make choices about the products or services they use based on their own unique needs or desires, independent of the influence of others.
Although trends are easy to follow, not all products or services are a good fit for every individual. Consumers have a responsibility to think critically about whether or not a product or service does or does not meet their needs or if it poses a danger to them.
For example, although a new perfume may become popular, a person with asthma who normally gets symptoms if exposed to perfumes should carefully consider whether or not it’s wise to use.
That said, if a manufacturer or retailer designs a product that can specifically cause harm to individuals with asthma, and fails to warn consumers, this may be compensable.
For example, say someone were to suffer an asthma attack as a result of using a product or service because they were not warned and they would not have used it if they had been made aware. If the person incurred hospital bills or had to take time off work to recover, they may be eligible to pursue financial restitution from the manufacturer, designer, and/or retailer.
3. Speak Out
Buyers are responsible for making their voices heard in regard to their needs and whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with a product or service. Designers, manufacturers, retailers, and service providers rely on consumer feedback to improve their products and/or services or to design new offerings to meet a particular need.
Buyers should be sincere but polite when contacting distributors, retailers, or other organizations to offer ideas, ask questions, and voice concerns.
The fourth consumer responsibility is very similar to the third but refers specifically to consumer complaints. Consumers not only have the right to complain about poor quality or harmful products or services, but they also have a responsibility to.
Buyers who have a dissatisfactory experience or who are hurt by a product or service can help others avoid similar experiences by speaking up. This responsibility also includes the onus to be polite yet straightforward; complaints do not have to be abusive to be effective.
5. Be an Ethical Consumer
Ethical consumerism at its most basic is about buying products or paying for services that do not harm or exploit animals, humans, or the environment.
Consumers have a responsibility to make ethical purchasing decisions when possible, and there are a variety of ways to do this, many of which are more subtle than expected when one hears the phrase “ethical consumerism.”
Consumers can purchase ethically made goods, whether they are organic, fair trade, or cruelty-free, or sold by a local small business.
When a large number of people shop ethically and essentially vote for the products and services they want with their dollars, corporations are more likely to recognize and amend harmful practices.
Manufacturers and retailers may not advertise non-ethically made products as organic, fair-trade, etc. and must follow state and federal guidelines on labeling products that contain ethically sourced ingredients or make claims to be manufactured a certain way.
Organizations that falsely advertise an ethical product or service may be held responsible if a person can prove they directly suffered damages as a result of purchasing or using the product or service they would not otherwise have used had they known its true source.
Has a Company Infringed on Your Consumer Rights? Contact a Consumer Protection Law Firm Now
If you or a loved one have been injured or otherwise harmed by a company who has infringed on your consumer rights, don’t hesitate to reach out to a consumer protection attorney in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have the experience and skills necessary to represent you, even in against large companies with dozens of members on their legal teams. Contact us today to learn more about your rights, product liability lawsuits, and other consumer protection topics.
Call now to book your initial consultation at (978) 744-8000 (Local) or (855) 693-9084.