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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
The consumer strikes back
Pesticides
Consumers call for clean up
The consumer is fast becoming a David to the Goliath of large companies, as the BBC's Consumer Affairs Correspondent Nicola Carslaw reports.

Consumers now feel they can change the world.

They have learned from their success with GM foods, high-cost cars and hole-in-the-wall cash machines.

Environmental campaigners now say chemicals are the next target.

Their message is: You Have The Power Over Pesticides.

They want supermarkets to "clean up" and tell suppliers to go easy on the sprays.

People Power

Companies are going to have to get used to being more open and transparent.

With electronic communication, anything people find out about a firm can be relayed around the world within seconds.

So, even though consumers may be too squeamish to want to know about, say, slaughterhouse practices, if they are not told, they will be suspicious.

And then there's the increase in ethical consumerism.

Rice farmers
Ethical produce is a new goal

Shoppers want to know the origin of what they're buying.

They hate finding out later that a football, for example, was produced by a small child in a dark room in a faraway country.

Local food that's full of character, ethically produced and fairly traded is a new goal - no longer a niche market.

Trading Standards

On another level, consumers' big complaints tend to be about cowboy builders, rogue traders and second-hand car dealers.

Trading Standards Officers want the power to name and shame the worst offenders with nationwide lists circulated throughout local authorities.

This might act as a deterrent to many. But it will do little to stop firms which close down under one name and set up under another.

The major concern, of course, is policing the internet.

Not only is there enormous leeway for rogue companies to rip people off without reprisal, but there are also fears about buying goods without the security of a guarantee.

And there is the added concern surrounding the safety of the information people give when they use a credit or debit card to buy goods online.

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Business
Rogue traders cost billions
20 Sep 00 | Business
Oftel says consumer champion needed
12 Oct 00 | Business
Net shopping 'pitfalls' warning
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