THE CONCEPT OF “CONSUMER” IN CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW

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The term “consumer” has long existed in the legal system of countries. However, each country has its own concept of this issue. “Consumer” is defined as follows in different countries:

The European Union. The European Union’s consumer concept is clarified in Directive 1999/44 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 May 1999 on certain aspects of the market of consumer goods and associated guarantees. The Directive read: “Consumers are person by nature (ie, individual) … engaged in contracts governed by this Directive … for purposes not relating to one’s business or profession”

China. Although the 1993 Consumer Protection Law of China does not have a separate clause explaining the concept of consumers, but in Article 2 of this Law mentions: “If consumers purchase and use goods or services for daily living demands, their legitimate rights and interests shall be protected under the provisions of this Law; and, in cases where this Law does not prescribe, they shall be protected by other relevant provisions.” This clause implies that consumers, in the sense of Chinese law, are only individuals, i.e. buyers or users of goods and services for their own needs, not necessarily for business or professional purposes. The USA. Consumer protection laws in the United States are governed by both federal and state laws. While there is no uniform consumer protection law in which the concept of consumers is clearly explained, the concept of consumers is conceived by the US legal experts as individual consumers. 

Malaysia. Article 3, Malaysia’s 1999 Consumer Protection Law explains: “Consumers are people who buy or use goods or services for personal or familial purposes … and do not include any acts of selling goods or service; Nor using goods for the primary purpose of reselling or incorporating into the production of other goods or services; Nor repairing or attaching to other goods. “ Thailand.  Article 3, Thailand’s Consumer Protection, Act 1979 states that “a consumer is a person who purchases goods or services or is offered to buy goods or services from a business person, including the person who actually uses the goods, even though this person does not directly pay for use of the goods or services”. Also in this clause, the term “business person” is understood as  sellers, manufacturers, importers, buyers for resale, service providers, the persons conducting the advertisement. It is understood that consumers are not only those who use goods or services for the pure consumption purpose, but also those who use them for trading or manufacturing purposes. Consumers, according to Thai regulations, are not only natural persons but also legal entities.  Vietnam. Clause 1, Article 3 of the Law on Protection of Consumers’ Interests in 2010 stipulates: “Consumers are people who buy and use goods or services for the purpose of consumption and daily life of individuals,families or organization. “[19, Article 3, paragraph 1]. From the above-mentioned contexts, the concepts of “consumers” are likely formed by three different methods.  The first concept defines that consumers are just individuals. This definition is widely accepted in Europe and the Quebec. This means that the consumer protection law protects solely individuals. As for legal persons, since these entities have better leverage in a relationship with suppliers, the consumer law does not interfere in their consumer relationships. However, this approach also has some drawbacks because legal entities, in accordance with the law, include not only businesses, but also with other organizations in the society. These organizations are sometimes not professional, and such as individual consumers, do not have necessary resources to deal with violation acts from manufacturers and therefore, also need to be placed under the protection of consumer protection law. The second concept interprets consumers including both natural and legal persons. This definition appears to be rather broad and may have the view that it would dilute the effectiveness of the Consumer Protection Act. However, this method overcomes the limitation of the first one as it is not always possible for a legal entity to face the breach by a manufacturer. And if the Law on Consumer Protection does not protect them as for other consumers, then the interests of a large group of people in society will be violated, causing damage to the whole society. In the third concept the term consumers are neither explicitly defined as individuals alone nor consisting of both natural and legal individuals. This rule only says “who”. This regulation can lead to many different interpretations and can hardly be applied in practice because it can be understood to include both individuals and legal entities, but can also be understood as individuals only. [10] In conclusion, according to the law of Vietnam, the term “consumers” here falls into the second case. Accordingly, consumers include not only individuals who are individual consumers but also organizations (such as enterprises, state management agencies, professional associations, social organizations, mass organizations etc.) who purchase and use goods and services for the purposes of consumption and daily life of such individuals, families or organizations. In other words, these entities do not purchase or use goods or services for resale or profit-making purposes.