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Potentials, pitfalls, and policy implications of electronic consumption

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Rapid growth of Internet use has been accompanied by expectations regarding the potential empowerment of the consumer: consumers are envisioned to become more powerful both as individuals and as pressure groups in collective action. These hopes are fuelled by drastically decreasing transaction costs of information search (i.e., transparency gain) as well as for exit and voice (i.e., organizational gain), seemingly tilting the power balance on virtual markets towards the demand side. Yet, there are concerns regarding the privacy and security of accumulated consumer data which governments and industry have declared to be major obstacles in the development of consumer-related e-commerce. Moreover, concerns are aired regarding the dematerialization of consumption and money forms which render control of spending more difficult. Finally, Internet use and electronic consumption bear the dangers of becoming excessive and hence to lead the way to indebtedness and pathological use. The present paper sketches these issues and discusses implications for consumer policy and law.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Hohenheim, Department of Consumption Theory and Consumption Policy (530a) D-70593 Stuttgart, Germany.

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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