The right to be heard and to be understood: a conceptual framework for consumer protection in emerging economies
Suné Donoghue and Helena M. de Klerk
Department of Consumer Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Keywords Consumer complaint behaviour, consumerism, redress environment. Correspondence Suné Donoghue,Department of Consumer Science (Room 3-14), University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. E-mail: Sune.Donoghue@up.ac.za doi: 10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00773.x
In many emerging economies and developing countries, comprising consumers from different cultures and with varying degrees of sophistication (knowledge and skill) concerning consumer protection, the promotion of consumers’rights to develop a consumeroriented culture remains a very big challenge. One way of protecting the consumer, especially the consumer that has not been fully socialized to execute informed decisions when purchasing expensive durables, is by establishing a redress environment that would ensure fair redress as well as an understanding and appreciation of the consumer. Manufacturers and retailers areoften not aware of the performance failures that consumers experience concerning their products because many people do not communicate their dissatisfactions to them. However, unless and until manufacturers and retailers fully comprehend their customers’ complaint behaviour, their reasons for engaging in speciﬁc complaint behaviour and the reasoning (cognitive processes) and emotional processesbehind their behaviour, they will not recognize the link between complaint handling and customer loyalty and proﬁts. The purpose of this paper was to develop a theoretical conceptual framework that would enable consumer scientists, consumer consultants, consumer behaviour researchers and those with the responsibility of handling consumer complaints to explore and understand consumer complaint behaviourin its entirety. We argue that, to be able to establish and manage a redress environment that is characterized by an understanding of the speciﬁc consumer as well as by effective complaint behaviour handling, it is of the utmost importance that the manufacturer, retailer, consumer consultant and all those that work with consumers’ complaints understand the entire complaint process, including theunderlying cognitive and emotional processes as well as the consumer’s post-complaint perception of justice and his/her satisfaction with the complaint handling. It is also important to understand the role that consumer-, product- and redress environment-related variables play in consumer complaint behaviour. The consumer who blames the retailer for the problem and who probably feels angry aboutthe situation and decides to complain will expect redress. From a consumer’s viewpoint, complaint-related justice is, however, not only a matter of economic calculus but also a matter of procedure and interaction. We therefore argue for a holistic approach where consumer complaint behaviour is addressed in its entirety. Practical suggestions that could enhance customer satisfaction are given formanufacturers, retailers and those who deal with consumers’ complaints.
Social and economic reforms in transitional and emerging economies have led to rapid increases in consumer income and a demand for various products. For example, the new political dispensations that came into being in many African countries (among which South Africa) have led to an increase in the consumption ofgoods as a way of displaying increased self-worth and newly acquired wealth, especially among those from previously disadvantaged
backgrounds. Many of these developing countries comprise consumers from different cultural backgrounds who have not been properly socialized concerning the consumption of a variety of new – and in many cases expensive – household durables and the appropriate...