Business Ethtics Exploring Caveat Emptor

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Business Ethics |
Assignment 2|
"Evaluate the notion of "caveat emptor". Does a business have an obligation to manufacturer products that are as safe as possible for consumers and society in general? Use ethical theories to justify your argument."| |

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Introduction

This essay aims to evaluate the notion of "caveat emptor" and examine the obligation that businesses have to produce a product which is safe for consumers and society in general. This essay will define caveat emptor, examine the approaches used to determine the burden of responsibility in regards to product safety and assess these approaches from an ethical standpoint, using ethical theories. It is the aim of the author to provide a compelling argument that caveat emptor is an outdated maxim which holds no real value within today's consumer driven economy and the onus to provide safe products falls at the feet of the manufacturer. Caveat emptor

Caveat emptor is a Latin legal term which translates to "let the buyer beware". Caveat emptor is defined as: "A maxim of Roman law now part of British-tradition common law, that a buyer's omission to make fundamental inquiries and inspection(s) of property leaves the purchase of deficient property at the buyer's peril if he does not" ("caveat emptor 1", 2011). The notion of caveat emptor places the onus on the purchaser to ensure that goods are of a saleable quality before purchase during a commercial transaction. It implies that "the buyer purchases at his own risk in the absence of express warranty in the contract" ("caveat emptor 2", 2011). Caveat emptor has a long history in both Roman law and English common law. It “has been part of the English language since 1523, when it was used in connection with the sale of a horse" ("caveat emptor 1", 2011).Caveat emptor "originally denied the buyer the right to any claims of quality" ("commercial transaction", 2011) unless it was stated in contract. Caveat emptor was well suited in early common law transactions where purchases were simplistic in nature, goods were easily inspected and customers knew where the product came from (often in open markets or from friends/neighbours). Over time the doctrine of caveat emptor became less effective as "the law developed various "implied warranties"" ("commercial transaction", 2011). This gave rise to the notion that goods are defective "if they are unfit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used" ("commercial transaction", 2011). Caveat emptor is a fairly ineffective doctrine in the context of modern society. Consumers have become dependent on businesses to fulfil their needs and desires due to "our highly technological society, characterised as it is by a complex economy, intense specialisation and urban concentration" (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009, p.289). Consumers are often at times forced to put their faith in the goodwill, skill and honesty of those companies who produce consumer goods. Product safety – Who bears responsibility?

Product safety has become a contentious issue within the consumer market. Globalisation and free trade, urbanisation of communities and economic development has seen a rise in the dependence of consumers on businesses to provide them with the products they need to sustain their lifestyle. It is extremely rare in today's world for humans to be able to live a self-sufficient existence, so the need to place trust in those who produce and sell the products that society needs has increased dramatically. This then poses an important question: who is responsible for the safety of the products within the consumer market? There are several approaches used when determining who has the onus of responsibility regarding product safety. Each of these approaches are “based upon a particular view of the nature of the relationship between the consumer, the corporation and the marketplace" (Shaw et al., 2009 p.293). These approaches are known as: the "contract"...
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