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. With the 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. However, many consumers are still not aware of
their consumer rights, and do not have the necessary knowledge to pursue redress when they are
dissatisfied. The objective of this research was therefore to explore and describe the relationship
between consumers‟ knowledge of consumerism (consumer protection) and their consumer complaint
behaviour (CCB) concerning their dissatisfaction with a technologically advanced product, in this
case, a consumer electronic product. This study attempts to differentiate between subjective
consumerism knowledge and objective consumerism knowledge and by extension the measures
employed. In addition, we explored and described the relationship between demographic variables
and levels of subjective and objective consumerism knowledge as well as the combined effect of the
two types of knowledge on consumer complaint behaviour. The findings revealed that the respondents
had a reasonable level of subjective consumerism knowledge relative to a low level of objective
consumerism knowledge. No significant relationship was found between subjective consumerism
knowledge and demographic variables. However, the factors of race, gender and level of income were
related to objective knowledge. A higher level of subjective knowledge could be associated with
public action. Respondents with reasonable levels of objective knowledge were also better equipped
to take private and public action. CHAID (Chi-Square Automatic Interaction Detection) analysis
highlighted that a combination of subjective and objective knowledge was the best predictor of taking
public action only and of taking both private and public complaint action. The study has implications
for policy makers, consumer protection organisations, retailers and the individual consumer. Our
approach to measuring knowledge of consumerism could possibly be applied in other emerging
contexts where consumers generally lack awareness of consumer protection.
Chausse, Roman(University of Pretoria, 2013-07-29)
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