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Does A Business Have A Moral Duty To Its Consumer

By Callumamazon01 Feb 26, 2015 323 Words
Does a business have a moral duty to its consumer?

Economist Milton Friedman argues that a business’ “responsibility…generally will be to make as much money as possible”. Friedman clearly argues against the belief that a business has a moral duty to its consumers and rathers that their responsibility is instead to its shareholders, and therefore act in their best interests. Thus, Friedman would argue in the Ford Pinto case, in which Ford decided to risk consumer’s health over recalling the Pinto model, costing shareholders profit revenue, that Ford had no moral duty to recall the car as it had no moral duty to its consumers.

On the other hand, businesses also have responsibility towards other stakeholder in the company, other than consumers. One of the stakeholders are the businesses employees. If a business had a priority to its consumers, his may negatively impact the business’ employees. From a Kantian ethical standpoint this would be immoral as Kantian ethical standpoint, this would be immoral as Kantian ethics argues that all humans, no matter their status in society. Therefore, if the moral duty to a business’ consumers involves a negative impact on another stake holder of the company; e.g. If reduced prices for the consumer comes at the expense of employment for a number of employees, then the company will be acting against the categorical imperative of regarding all rational beings as equal.

In contrast to this approach, a Utilitarian’s perspective would disagree with Kantian ethics and support the argument for a moral duty to its consumers, as a Utilitarian would believe that if the effects of prioritising consumers comes at the expense of negatively effecting a larger group of individuals, then a business’ moral duty lies with the largest effected group. In fact, Kantian Ethics even contrasts itself with its belief that one has an equal moral duty to all rational moral agents, therefore prioritising the consumers over other stakeholders would be immoral.

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