Although there is immense international support for consumer protection; the notion exists that consumer protection can only exist in developed countries with ample fiscal resources and expertise to properly act in the interest of consumers. This conception leaves consumers in emerging and transitional economies in a difficult position as these economies indeed generally lack sufficient funding and the required capacity to educate consumers on their rights (Donoghue & De Klerk, 2009). With the new South African Consumer Protection Act that came into effect in 2011; South African consumers can now claim to be among the best protected consumers in the world. It is, however, an undeniable fact that South African consumers are often still unaware of their rights, while very little is known about dissatisfied consumers’ cognitions and complaint behaviour following dissatisfaction with the performance of complicated and expensive products.
Although substantial literature could be found on consumers’ attitudes towards consumerism (consumer protection), consumers’ dissatisfaction with consumer products and consumer complaint behaviour in general in developed and developing countries, no empirical studies could be found that link consumers’ knowledge of and attitudes towards consumerism with their consumer complaint behaviour regarding dissatisfactory consumer products in a South African context. The objective of this research was therefore to explore and describe the relationship between consumers’ knowledge of consumerism and consumer complaint behaviour and the relationship between attitudes towards consumerism and consumer complaint behaviour concerning their dissatisfaction with products. The respondents’ perceived level of severity of the consumer electronics’ performance failure was also explored. This study used a survey approach. Convenience sampling was employed in Tshwane, South Africa, which generated 351 usable responses. For inclusion in the study, respondents had to have experienced dissatisfaction with the performance of a consumer electronic product within a 12 month memory recall period. The study was quantitative in nature as well as cross-sectional as it explored and described consumers’ knowledge of and attitudes towards consumerism, and their subsequent consumer complaint behaviour in the Tshwane region, as well as their perceived levels of severity of the consumer electronic product failure. The data was collected by means of a self-administered questionnaire. Consumers’ knowledge of consumerism was measured and explained in terms of the subjective and objective dimensions of knowledge. Consumers’ attitudes toward consumerism were measured by using an adapted version of Barksdale and Darden’s (1972) Attitudes toward Marketing and Consumerism Scale. Higher levels of knowledge could be associated with complaint behaviour, but attitudes towards consumerism did not play a role in consumer complaint behaviour. The respondents’ perceived levels of the severity of the consumer electronic products’ performance failure did not influence the type of complaint action taken. The study has implications for policy makers, consumer protection organisations and retailers.
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2015.