Consumer is a broad label for any individuals or households that use goods and services generated within the economy. The concept of a consumer occurs in different contexts, so that the usage and significance of the term may vary.
In 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.
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