Part­ner­ship project: The New Con­sumers

© Andi Weiland

The “New Con­sumers” project takes a look at the needs of refugees as con­sumers in Ger­many. In close col­lab­o­ra­tion with a tar­get group, the project brought togeth­er knowl­edge of how dig­i­tal help and infor­ma­tion ser­vices could be made more user friend­ly, and more use­ful.

Refugees are con­front­ed with many chal­lenges. Along­side the com­plex­i­ty of the asy­lum appli­ca­tion process and find­ing your feet in a new envi­ron­ment, sit­u­a­tions can arise which present you with great dif­fi­cul­ty as a con­sumer. There is a gap here between expec­ta­tions and aspi­ra­tions on the one hand, and every­day actions on the other. In par­tic­u­lar, lan­guage bar­ri­ers can make it hard­er for refugees to, for exam­ple, shop, open their own bank account, choose health insur­ance or a mobile phone con­tract.

It is impor­tant to under­stand refugees as one of the key tar­get groups for con­sumer pro­tec­tion, and to keep them in mind in that respect. As such, they should receive spe­cial­ly-tai­lored infor­ma­tion ser­vices. The “New Con­sumers” project works with dig­i­tal­ly-lit­er­ate refugees with good prospects for stay­ing in the long term to deter­mine what a tar­get-group-spe­cif­ic con­sumer pro­tec­tion requires and how exist­ing needs can be met.

Prior expe­ri­ence has shown that refugees can some­times make poor con­sumer choic­es because they are insuf­fi­cient­ly informed about their rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties when shop­ping, or when sign­ing con­tracts. More­over, con­tracts and terms and con­di­tions are often only avail­able in Ger­man, which refugees can find hard to under­stand. At the heart of the project is dig­i­tal­ly-avail­able con­sumer infor­ma­tion, as refugees gen­er­al­ly use their smart­phones to look up spe­cif­ic con­sumer infor­ma­tion.

Gath­er­ing expe­ri­ences

The project brings togeth­er a large num­ber of mea­sures which build on each other: Car­ry­ing out a map­ping project as an ini­tial step ensures that the major­i­ty of avail­able con­sumer ser­vices for refugees can be taken into account and assessed accord­ing to defined cri­te­ria. The prac­ti­cal check gives infor­ma­tion on the local­ly, social­ly and struc­tural­ly dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences of peo­ple who work with refugees and teach them about con­sumer issues, and the ser­vices which they actu­al­ly use. In addi­tion, with­in the frame­work of indi­vid­ual and group inter­views with refugees, con­crete needs can be checked again – with the aim of cre­at­ing the most pre­cise pic­ture pos­si­ble of what con­sumer infor­ma­tion was real­ly need­ed. There then fol­low the so-called liv­ing labs, which will take a prac­ti­cal­ly-ori­ent­ed approach to con­sumer-rel­e­vant themes. In the liv­ing labs, refugees look at top­ics such as how dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion ser­vices could be designed so that they could bet­ter answer every­day ques­tions. Next, there is a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry ses­sion with a group of ten dig­i­tal­ly-lit­er­ate refugees, who con­stant­ly and active­ly help the project as every­day ambas­sadors. In the first instance, they bring the ideas devel­oped with­in the project back to their com­mu­ni­ties and thus func­tion as mul­ti­pli­ers. At the same time, they com­mu­ni­cate con­sumer-rel­e­vant prob­lems which they encounter to the project team.

The every­day ambas­sadors
© Andi Wei­land

Mak­ing the Results Acces­si­ble

A semi-vir­tu­al road­show sup­ports the aim of spread­ing the infor­ma­tion devel­oped in the steps described here to a larg­er audi­ence. To that end, we are speak­ing to select­ed organ­i­sa­tions online and offline, along­side the every­day ambas­sadors, to inform them of the progress that the project has made so far. The feed­back will go into the final doc­u­men­ta­tion. This project report, which takes the form of a set of instruc­tions to guide prac­tice, will bring togeth­er all the find­ings and for­mu­lat­ed prac­ti­cal hints and tips on that basis, to help shape a sen­si­ble con­sumer pro­tec­tion pol­i­cy for refugees with good prospects for stay­ing in the coun­try long-term.

The “New Con­sumers” project runs until June 2018,It is being car­ried out on behalf of the Ger­man Fed­er­al Min­istry of Jus­tice and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion, and for the non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion iRights e.V.

iRights e.V.
Pro­jekt “Die neuen Ver­brauch­er”
Alm­stadt­str. 9/11
10119 Berlin

Das Lab

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