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Recent research finds UK consumers are the most unethical and says "assuming a normal distribution of responses, half of Britons think it is OK to make a false insurance claim". The full article, published in Emerald's Journal of Consumer Marketing, is available by emailing me:

The paper examines the results of samples from Austria, Brunei, France, Hong Kong, UK and USA. 11 scenarios were presented and consumers were asked whether to indicate on a scale of 1 to 5 whether they thought the behaviour was wrong (1) or not wrong (5).

Across the survey, 'drinking a can of soda in a supermarket without buying it' was considered the most objectionable (rank = 1) and the most acceptable 'taking towels from hotels and blankets from aircraft as souvenirs' (rank = 11). Other scenarios included 'reporting a lost item as stolen to an insurance company to collect the money' (rank = 4) and 'getting too much change and not saying anything' (rank = 8).

Whilst age was also surveyed and analysed, nationality was found to explain almost five times more variation in unethical consumer behaviour than the amount of variance accounted for by age. The research also found that the UK has more extremely held positions on both ends of the scale of unethical consumer behaviour with 31% of the 'puritan' cluster who hold the least favourable perceptions of unethical consumer behaviour being from the UK (most puritanical nation is USA with 35% of puritan cluster); and the UK accounting for the majority (73%) of the 'cynical' cluster which views unethical consumer behaviour most favourably (next most cynical nation - Brunei at 14%, France at 6%).

Businesses who need to manage unethical consumers face a management challenge - "assuming a normal distribution of responses, half of Britons think it is OK to make a false insurance claim, representing a huge cost to the economy and a challenge to that industry".

And where does the bad behaviour come from? The paper suggests three main causes:
- little prospect of capture/punishment for wrong-doing in the scenarios suggested
- the scenarios deal with businesses who are faceless and 'victimless'
- 'compared to other things, these acts are not that wrong'

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