Last edited 25 Jun 2019


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A customer (sometimes referred to as a ‘purchaser’, 'consumer', 'employer' ‘client’ or ‘buyer’) is an individual, group or organisation which buys goods or services from a supplier which may also be an individual, group or organisation.

Customers typcially act to maximise their well-being and satisfaction: they should know what they want and – in a free-market economy, and subject to the availability of adequate funds – are more-or-less free to select what they want.

A customer makes the decision to purchase certain goods and/or services once they are satisfied their purchase will satisfy a particular need, following which a transaction occurs: this will involve a payment of money – or some other consideration – flowing from the customer to the seller. There may also be some form of contract between the customer and the supplier, and there may also be legal righs governing the relationship between the customer and supplier, such as the Consumer Rights Act.

A distinction should be made between a customer and a consumer as they are not necessarily synonymous: a product may be purchased by an individual who is not the ultimate consumer e.g a cinema owner who buys ice-cream in bulk quantities: in this case, the consumer is the cinema goer, not the cinema owner.

The phrase ‘caveat emptor’ (or ‘buyer beware’) refers to the general principle that the seller of an item will generally know more about it than the purchaser and so the purchaser must take care to check the item before agreeing a price and purchasing it.

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