Consumers behaving badly: deviation or innovation? A conceptual exploration of empowered communications online- The case of consumer-producer relationships on the web

Authors: Denegri-Knott, J.

Conference: Home Oriented Informatics and Telematics [HOIT]

Dates: 6-8 April 2003


Consumers behaving badly online as a form of deviation perhaps epitomises producers' greatest concerns (see Experian's White Paper Report, 2001). An apparent transfer of control and power in online environments from producers to consumers could provide an answer to whether or not the World Wide Web is the next marketing frontier (Venkatesh, Meamber and Firat, 1998). While it is still too early to assess this, we are starting to witness the results of producers' co-optation of the web: In some circumstances consumers will resist marketing action. Some consumers will steal (15 million individuals illicitly traded three billion songs in August 2001)(Mercury News, 2001); some consumers will lie (40% of web users have provided false information at some point) (Georgia Tech Research Corporation, 1997); some consumers will organise boycotts against organisations (pro-breast feeding groups organised boycotts against Nestle). Acts of consumers behaving badly have been reported and studied in offline contexts (Fullerton and Punj, 2000; Fullterton and Punj, 1993). Fullterton and Punj (2003:394) assert that "many consumers will misbehave some of the time". While this might be true, it is also probable that computer mediated environments (cmes) present more opportunities to misbehave and hence the scale of acts of misconduct could mean that they should be regarded as the norm rather than the exception. Some estimates reveal that computer crime may cost as much as fifty billion dollars per year (InterGov International, 2001). In 2001 approximately five billion dollars worth of software was stolen over the Internet (InterGov International, 2001). The widespread use of the Internet for acts of deviance is also reflected in popular Internet applications. According to Nielsen/Net ratings (2002) the sixth largest Internet application then was KAZAA, a peer-to-peer file sharing system through which consumers can download and upload copyright material for free. This widened degree of misbehaviour on the web is also a great concern among producers. Seventy percent of businesses in the UK surveyed by Experian in 2001 deemed doing business over the Internet inherently more risky than by any other market outlet.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Janice Denegri-Knott