[EURO-Discuss] Reservations regarding the "consumer" term in German

Wolf Ludwig wolf.ludwig at comunica-ch.net
Sat Mar 17 04:58:35 UTC 2012

Dear all,

some days ago, I sent a statement explaining my – and part of EURALO’s – reservations regarding the notion of „Consumers“ (German: „Konsumenten“ or „Verbraucher“) in the context of ALAC's debate on consumer metrics. In the meantime, I got some interesting remarks from other EURALO members copy-pasted below.

I particularly would like to underline the argument raised by Yrjö “Besides, traditionally consuming something (food, eg.) implies that the resource in question diminishes“ – what is not the case with information.

Further remarks and inputs are welcome.

Kind regards,

Rudi Vansnick wrote 13.03.2012
Many thanks Wolf to raise this topic.

In Belgium, we have 2 official languages, in dutch we talk about "consument" in french it is "consommateur", so clearly consumer alike. The rights of the consumer is clearly defined within the law of april 2010 "Market Practices and Consumer" whereas transactions done through internet "distant sales" the consumer has specific rights. ISOC Belgium has already been discussing the question of defining an Internet user as a consumer with the ministry of economical affairs, the specific division with focus on consumer affairs. As soon as we 
have some output we will comment back on this.

Kind regards,
Rudi Vansnick

Yrjö Länsipuro wrote 13.03.2012
Hi all,

I agree with Wolf. Same in Nordic languages.  And as Wolf says, Internet users are more and more  also producers of content. Besides, traditionally consuming something (food, eg.) implies that the resource in question diminishes. We should 
not use the same word for a resource which actually grows in value when it is "consumed" by more people.

Best, Yrjö

Manuel Schneider wrote 13.03.2012
This is especially true as the "consumer" today on the internet is as well also a "contributor" (read: blogs, social media, Wikimedia...), so
"user" seems to be the appropriate term.


Desiree Miloshevic wrote 13.03.201
Hi Wolf

Thanks Wolf for this German linguistic contribution.

In the UK, for instance we have a specialized magazine, Which Magazine, http://www.which.co.uk/
a sort of commerce and trade review magazine for anyone who buys services or products, (mostly appliances ) and there is a consumer law...

It is there to inform byers - (read consumers) them of market consumer choice, norms and standards. So but for the Internet, the term users has 
been established and has not somehow made a bridge yet with consumer associations.

more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer


Wolf Ludwig wrote 13.03.2012

Reservations regarding the „consumer“ term in German

The notion of “consumer” or “Konsument” in German language offers divers connotations, depending on context and circles where it is used. Many of EURALO’s German (or germanophone) ALSes may challenge this term because it offers a dichotomous and rather traditional understanding particularly if adopted for the Internet age.

A consumer or “Konsument” in German is somebody who is mostly interested in general consumption. Commercial offers should be inexpensive and of decent quality or providing a good value-for-money ratio. Consumer trust is considered important. Besides a certain purchasing power, “der Konsument” is rather inactive than pro-active, or sort of “couch potato” in a traditional sense. Consumer associations are still confined in the analogue age and remarkably reluctant to broaden their scope to the Online world. 

The notion of “consumer” or “Konsument” is more and more generalized up to whateverism and political abuse. In the area of media for example, recipients are no longer and more precisely specified or characterized as readers, spectators, audience, public or the like but reduced and generalized as “Konsumenten”. And whatever pleases a certain majority of “consumers” must be good, even if bare of substance. Institutions of public broadcasting are increasingly affected by this tendency.

When you refer to consumer choice, trust, protection and the like, you imply conventional commerce, consumption and markets but not obviously Online and the Internet. As this notion in a German language context doesn’t offer much specification or clarification but more likely nebulisation, our community prefers and mostly uses the Internet user notion (“Internetnutzer”). The Internet user won’t reconcile him/herself with a role of conventional passive consumption but insists on inter-activity, surfing, commenting, down/uploading, and the whole variety of options provided by the Internet. To our understanding, the “Internetnutzer” is comparably younger with certain skills for the use / Nutzung of the Internet (factor of empowerment) and showing a certain political sensitivity when key issues and principles of the Internet like access or openness etc. are at stake. In related terms, we also talk about Internet-Nutzung (usage), Nutzungsgewohnheiten (habits) and more of
such user specifications, whereas “consumption of the Internet” simply sounds strange and dissociated in German. These are some brief reflexions explaining our reservations regarding the “consumer” term.

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