Open School for Consumers: The Case for Consumer Education through Exibitions
Address by Anwar Fazal, Regional Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, International Organization of Consumers Unions, at the inauguration of an exhibition held in conjunction with the 2nd All India Consumer Conference, Bangalore, India on 15 December 1974.
- I am deeply honored to have been asked to inaugurate this exhibition in conjunction with the 2nd All India Conference.
- Unlike conferences, exhibition can be both heart breaking and back breaking. It was therefore most courageous of the Karnataka Consumer Service Society to venture into this project which, considering the circumstances, has been a creditable job.
- Unlike conferences too, where you often end up exhorting the already initiated, you will here be dealing with many ordinary consumers uninitiated in the vigorous discipline that is required of him to be the king, the master of his destiny in the market place.
- Like conferences, however, exhibitions make or break depending on whether real communication takes place with the participant or target audience and whether a transfer of message takes place.
- In exhibitions, I see the primary aim as: i) developing the level of consciousness of the consumer; ii) equipping him with the resources to become the master in the market place.
- The level of consciousness can be raised through explaining, illustrating (and agitating him) about his consumer rights:
· his right to safety
· his right to redress
· his right to information
· his right to choice
- The tools and resources that can be made available to him could include:
· access to, and membership of, a consumer organisation
· access to government enforcing agencies
· access to consumer education material through publications, displays, talks etc.
- The exhibition could become a controlled learning environment, if you like that terminology, and if you don’t, it could become an open school for consumers.
- I know one consumer organisation that was so successful in organizing exhibitions that they made an equivalent of net 50,000 rupees yearly for several years, enabling them to become self-supporting and providing active service and representation on behalf of consumers.
- Their formula was simple. They created a controlled miniature market place in an indoor stadium with government and private sector organisations supplying goods and services, putting up actual demonstrations sale/service centers. This “core” was subject to audit and scrutiny by visitors who, through a well organised system of consumer education displays and publicity materials, were able to make critical and reasoned choices. There was a dose of entertainment and other attractions to encourage visitors to this consumer EXPO. This fair drew crowds, the organisation charged for entrance, and participating agencies paid fees for rental of space. The project worked so well that the business community started their own fair shortly thereafter, eventually overshadowing the consumer one.
- I am not promoting that formula but I think there is a lot we could learn from that experience and the experience we are gaining here today. With the penchant for fair that pervades our societies, we may develop a new medium for both consumer education and fund raising without sacrificing two important principles: i) operating exclusively in the consumer interest; ii) being non profit-making and non-commercial.
- I hope therefore that the Karnataka Consumer Service Society will keep up this effort of theirs and I hope that the Bangalore Consumer Expo will become an important event and one to which consumer leaders from many countries will come to perform pilgrimage to see India’s leading consumer education centre in action.
- With that, I have great pleasure in declaring this exhibition open and I wish it every success.