Competence Center Consumer Research NRW publishes theses on vulnerable consumers

On the 14th of April 2013 the Competence Center Consumer Research NRW organised a workshop in Düsseldorf on “Vulnerable consumers: The social-policy dimension of consumer policy”.

Today the workshop documentation and theses were published. The theses summarize the essence of the presentations and discussions. These theses are summarized here (without further explanations that are part of the full version):

1) These on the context

1.1: Contemporary consumer policy is oriented towards middle-class consumers – the interests of vulnerable consumer groups are inadequately represented.

1.2: A modern consumer policy has to take care of all consumer groups – to do so it needs to apply a differentiated strategy.

1.3: For a differentiated strategy and effective consumer advice work it is imperative to understand the live situations of vulnerable consumers better and to test different policy interventions and their impact on vulnerable consumers.


2) Insights from consumer research

2.1: While vulnerable consumers are recognized as a new subject area in consumer policy and research, there are other research disciplines (in particular poverty research) that have investigated this consumer groups already for years.

2.2: Consumer policy should not only be directed towards individual consumers, but to households and it should apply the live-situation concept.

2.3: Children and young people represent an important target group for companies – yet consumer research knows little about the purchasing behaviour and decisions of children.

2.4: In the field of financial services even the well-educated consumer group of Young Professionals behaves far from what one should expect from rational and enlightened consumers.

2.5: Health policy is based on assumptions that might be justified as normative principles, but they do not have much in common with live reality.

2.6: While the debate about energy poverty has gained political momentum in recent years, there is still a lack of a definition of energy poverty and of insights into the causes and potential instruments to rectify this challenge.

2.7: Vulnerable consumers can give interesting impulses for other consumer groups in the realm of sustainable consumption.

2.8: The framework conditions of e-commerce show that it is important to distinguish between different consumer groups. Within this group it would be of interest to also assess the extent of vulnerability of these groups.


3) Theses on the implications for consumer policy

3.1: A consumer policy that is oriented towards vulnerable consumer groups requires a dedicated consumer education component.

3.2: To protect children as one important group of vulnerable consumers, various measures need to be applied.

3.3: Particularly in the realm of financial services, vulnerable consumers need to be protected and empowered.

3.4: Health policy should be based on more realistic assumptions about consumers – this would lead to stronger patient participation on the makro-level.


Further information: und 

Source: Kompetenzzentrum Verbraucherforschung NRW