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Must We Protect the Consumer?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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"Above all else, do no harm." 

Very interesting philosophy. We have mentioned this before, but conversation around the industries — mostly marketing and technology — continue about the use of information and consumer privacy. It leads us to question: in a supposedly free market, must the players within it gird themselves with self-regulation? Or, can the free market philosophy run its course, and those businesses whom the customers appreciate the most, survive?

There are several assumptions when we talk about living and engaging in the free market. We assume that the consumer not only has access to all information, but they readily use it, understand it, and apply it to decision-making.

In reality, that is not the case.

We assume, too, that the businesses in business have the primary goal of satisfying needs and wants of consumers in order to make a profit; then the firms in turn use that profit to benefit society.

In reality, that too is not the case.

So when it comes to letting businesses use the information that consumers readily give us, in order to influence their decision-making, one can argue that this puts consumers at a severe disadvantage.

But does it matter? 

Should we care that businesses now have the upper hand when it comes to information? We can gather much more information on the consumer than the consumer can on us. In terms of perfect competition, such conditions should not exist. In monopolistic competition — the environment we are in — that too is troubling.

Again, though, should we care?

Perhaps that is why consumer advocacy groups are formed — to help sway the opinion of and inform the consumer. Perhaps these groups are doing us in the marketing world a favor; being the watchdog so we can wash the guilt off our hands.

We guess there is a reason why the conversation continues. The jury is still out.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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