Consumer is a broad label for any individuals or households that use goods generated within the economy. The concept of a consumer occurs in different contexts, so that the usage and significance of the term may vary.
Economics and marketing
The "consumer" is the one who consumes the goods and services produced. As such, consumers plays a vital role in the economic system of a nation because in the absence of the effective demand that emanates from them, the economy virtually collapses. Mahatma Gandhi said a customer is the most important visitor in our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are on him. He is not an interruption to our work, he is the purpose of it.
Typically when business people and economists talk of consumers they are talking about person as consumer, an aggregated commodity item with little individuality other than that expressed in the buy/not-buy decision. However there is a trend in marketing to individualize the concept. Instead of generating broad demographic profiles and psycho-graphic profiles of market segments, marketers have started to engage in personalized marketing, permission marketing, and mass customization.
There is increasing backlash from the public over use of the label "consumer" rather than "customer", with many finding it offensive and derogatory. 
In law and politics
The law primarily uses the notion of "consumer" in relation to consumer protection laws, and the definition of consumer is often restricted to living persons (i.e. not corporations or businesses) and excludes commercial users. A typical legal rationale for protecting the consumer is based on the notion of policing market failures and inefficiencies, such as inequalities of bargaining power between a consumer and a business. As of all potential voters are also consumers, consumer protection takes on a clear political significance.
Concern over the interests of consumers has also spawned much activism, as well as incorporation of consumer education into school curricula. There are also various non-profit publications, such as Consumer Reports and Choice Magazine, dedicated to assist in consumer education and decision making, and Consumer Direct in the UK.
In India, the Consumer Protection Act 1986 clearly differentiates a consumer as consuming a commodity or service either for his personal domestic use or to earn his livelihood. Only consumers are protected as per this act and any person, entity or organization purchasing a commodity for commercial reasons are exempted from any benefits of this act. Furthermore, Indian case law has quite a few references on how to distinguish a consumer from a customer.
In intelligence studies
Within intelligence studies, the concept of "consumer" refers to the political staff consuming and requesting intelligence.
- Alpha consumer
- Consumer debt
- Consumer leverage ratio
- Consumer theory
- Consumers' cooperative
- Mass customization
- Mental health consumer
- Consumer reporting agency
- Consumer protection
- Consumer organization
- Consumer Direct
- National Consumer Agency (NCA)
- Informed consumer
- Consumer forum
- ^ Cross, Robert G. (1997). Revenue management: hard-core tactics for market domination. Broadway Books. pp. 66–71. ISBN 978-0-553-06734-7.
- ^ http://mistinthegarden.com/2009/02/04/dont-call-me-a-consumer/[dead link]
- ^ Krohn, Lauren (1995). Consumer protection and the law: a dictionary. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-87436-749-2.
- ^ "An Institutional Analysis of Consumer Law". Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law. Archived from the original on March 2, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070302211417/http://law.vanderbilt.edu/journals/journal/35-01/overby.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
- ^ and also consumers are people that buy goods "Consumer vs Customer". Consumerdaddy.com. http://www.consumerdaddy.com/a-23-consumer-customer.htm and also consumers are people that buy goods. Retrieved 2010-03-10. "The consumer protection act 1986 of India, is a little more generous with the word 'Consumer'. According to this law, consumer is not only a person who uses the product for domestic personal use, but also one who uses the product to earn his daily livelyhood."
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consumer — [ kɔ̃syme ] v. tr. <conjug. : 1> • v. 1120; lat. consumere « détruire » → consommer 1 ♦ (XIIe) Littér. Épuiser complètement les forces de (qqn). ⇒ abattre, épuiser, fatiguer, miner, ronger, user. La passion, le chagrin le consume. ♢ (XVIIe) … Encyclopédie Universelle
consumer — con·sum·er n: one that utilizes economic goods; specif: an individual who purchases goods for personal use as distinguished from commercial use Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. consumer … Law dictionary
consumer — con‧sum‧er [kənˈsjuːmə ǁ ˈsuːmər] noun [countable] 1. MARKETING a person who buys goods, products, and services for their own use, not for business use or to resell: • Demand for autos is increasing as consumers feel more confident about the… … Financial and business terms
Consumer IR — Consumer IR, consumer infrared, or CIR, refers to a wide variety of devices employing the infrared electromagnetic spectrum for wireless communications. Most commonly found in television remote controls, infrared ports are equally ubiquitous in… … Wikipedia
consumer — Consumer, et user, Absumere, Consumere, Prodigere. Consumer tout à fait, Abuti. Consumer les biens d autruy, Comedere aliquem. Consumer en frottant, Atterere. Le soing me consume et gaste, Coquit me cura. Consumer et user à force de frotter,… … Thresor de la langue françoyse
consumer — CONSUMER. v. a. Détruire, user, réduire à rien. Le feu consuma tout ce grand édifice en deux heures de temps. La victime fut consumée par le feu. Le temps consume toutes choses. Il consume tout son bien en débauches. Il a consumé son patrimoine.… … Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798
consumer — early 15c., one who squanders or wastes, agent noun from CONSUME (Cf. consume). In economic sense, one who uses up goods or articles (opposite of producer) from 1745. Consumer goods is attested from 1890. In U.S., consumer price index calculated… … Etymology dictionary
Consumer — Con*sum er (k[o^]n*s[=u]m [ e]r), n. 1. One who, or that which, consumes; as, the consumer of food. [1913 Webster] 2. (Econ.) the person or organization that uses some item of commerce or service in its own acitities, as opposed to reselling the… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
consumer — CONSUMER. v. a. User, dissiper, destruire, reduire à rien. Le feu consuma tout ce grand édifice en deux heures de temps. la victime fut consumée par le feu. le temps consume toutes choses. il consume tout son bien en desbauches. il a consumé son… … Dictionnaire de l'Académie française
consumer — /konˈsumər, ingl. kənˈsjuːmə(r)/ [dal v. ingl. to consume «consumare»] A s. m. e f. inv. consumatore B agg. inv. (nel marketing) privato CONTR. business, business to business … Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione
consumer — [n] person who buys merchandise, services buyer, customer, end user, enjoyer, purchaser, shopper, user; concept 348 Ant. marketer, merchandiser … New thesaurus