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.
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.
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.
Projekt “Die neuen Verbraucher”