Consumer education is the preparation of an individual to be capable of making informed decisions when it comes to purchasing products in a consumer culture. It generally covers various consumer goods and services, prices, what the consumer can expect, standard trade practices, etc. While consumer education can help consumers to make more informed decisions, some researchers have found that its effects can drop off over time, suggesting the need for continual education. New dimensions of consumer education are also beginning to emerge as people become more aware of the need for ethical consumerism and sustainable consumer behaviour in our increasingly globalized society.
Consumer education is an education that can be found in several areas of study in the formal school curriculum and incorporated knowledge from many disciplines, including: Economics, Game theory, Information theory, Law, Mathematics, and Psychology. Teaching the subject is considered important as the body of literatures reveals that consumers are generally not well informed, impulsive, hardly critical, and with behavior influenced by habit and suggestion. Training for teachers also include instruction regarding different branches of consumerism.
Consumer education focuses on both functional skills and rights. These two elements are inseparable in the sense that awareness of several rights leads to functional skills. There are also instances when consumer education is conducted for the purpose of changing consumer perceptions such as the educational drive to increase consumer confidence in e-commerce.
Traditionally, the subject matter taught in Consumer Education would be found under the label Home Economics. Beginning in the late 20th Century, however, with the rise of Consumerism, the need for an individual to manage a budget, make informed purchases, and save for the future have become paramount. The outcomes of consumer education include not only the improved understanding of consumer goods and services but also increased awareness of the consumer's rights in the consumer market and better capability to take actions to improve consumer well-being.
Contents included in consumer education also vary from country to country. For instance, in the United Kingdom the focus is on the protection of children from the effects of exploitative consumer society while in the Philippines the emphasis is more on issues related to the more immediate public interest (e.g. boiling water before drinking it, examining sugar for impurities).
- Code of Federal Regulations: 1949-1984. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1981. p. 636.
- Weeks, Clinton S.; Mortimer, Gary; Page, Lionel (September 2016). "Understanding how consumer education impacts shoppers over time: A longitudinal field study of unit price usage" (PDF). Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. 32: 198–209. doi:10.1016/j.jretconser.2016.06.012.
- European Conference on Consumer Education in Schools, Stockholm 1993. Copenhagen: Council of Ministers. 1994. p. 32. ISBN 9291205036.
- Kaptan, Sanjay (2003). Consumer Movement in India: Issues and Problems. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. p. 16. ISBN 8176253987.
- Viswanathan, Madhubalan; Gajendiran, S.; Venkatesan, R. (2008). Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces. Cham: Springer Science & Business Media. p. 182. ISBN 9781402057687.
- Manzoor, Amir (2010). E-Commerce: An Introduction. Saarbrucken, Germany: LAMBERT Academic Publishing. p. 232. ISBN 9783843370301.
- OECD (2009). Promoting Consumer Education Trends, Policies and Good Practices: Trends, Policies and Good Practices. Paris: OECD Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 9789264060098.
- Giordan, Marion (2015). Consumer Education (RLE Consumer Behaviour): A Handbook for Teachers. Oxon: Routledge. p. 7. ISBN 9781138839144.