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Независима информация за потребителите чрез сравнителни изпитвания

Vasileva, Elka and Nikolov, Bogomil and Ivanova, Daniela (2013): Независима информация за потребителите чрез сравнителни изпитвания. Published in: (2013)

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Contemporary economic theories endorse the understanding that the effective functioning of the market mechanism requires perfect competition in supply (classical economic theory) and a reasonable (behavioural economics) and informed decision (theory of information) by demand. One of the major problems in the practical functioning of the market is embodied in the fact that consumers cannot always make a reasonable and informed decision based on the most favourable for them quality price ratio. The questions raised by insufficient (asymmetric) information have been the subject of widespread debate in the scientific literature since the 1970s, while research on consumers’ possibilities to make a reasonable choice gained momentum in behavioural economics only in the last decade. Much of today's consumer research is based on the successful overcoming of information asymmetry in the practices of advanced market economies. They are manifested particularly in the establishment of effective systems for overcoming information deficits through legislative requirements to provide information on prices and individual product’s characteristics. At the same time, the development of voluntary disclosure schemes through comparative product quality testing, third-party certification schemes, etc. is encouraged. The development of market relations in Bulgaria after 1989 inevitably made the country face similar challenges, both in terms of competition in supply and in the widening deficit of information about demand. These challenges were largely addressed by the country's integration process into the European Union in 1998-2007, when European legislative requirements aimed at achieving functioning markets were adopted and harmonized. At the same time, the development of voluntary approaches to information disclosure is lagging behind and is characterized by sparseness and inconsistency. Comparative tests are rarely carried out in Bulgaria. This lag is associated with both typical historical factors (the development of market relations for only two decades) and economic and managerial specifics. Economic factors are evident in the low purchasing power of the average consumer, which limits his or her willingness to devote resources to obtaining information on product quality. Most often, the cheapest product is purchased without putting much effort in evaluating and comparing product quality. Deficiencies in the policy on supporting independent testing may be included among the reasons related to state administration and the insufficient capacity to undertake such systematic initiatives by consumer or other civic entities. In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, one more stands out which can be called "informational". In the years of successful development of independent consumer information sources in Western Europe, a planned economy was functioning in Bulgaria. The period of the last decade, when the need for providing independent information on the marketed products in our country increased, coincided with the rapid penetration of the Internet, which created new opportunities for providing and sharing information among consumers. This peculiarity in the development has brought the imposition of classical comparative methods for providing scarce product information in a saturated competitive information environment. This, in turn, creates prerequisites for consumer confusion and obstacles to making informed choices. The aim of this study is to reveal the role of independent product testing in providing consumer information on product quality in the Bulgarian context. The first part examines the possibilities for practical application of the independent comparative tests on quality of products in Bulgaria. The basic principles of this comparative instrument of consumer protection policy, its dissemination in the European countries and in Bulgaria, as well as the main elements of the developed methodology of comparative testing are presented here. The second part deals with the piloting of comparative tests on selected product groups, which include the stages of preparation (planning, scope, choice of test methods, etc.) and actual implementation (collection, evaluation, summary and publication of results). The third part contains an original expert study of the possibilities for establishing a System of Independent Comparative Product Testing at national level with the involvement of the parties interested in providing consumer information in the country. The problems in the monograph are focused on an under researched in theoretical and methodological aspect area in our country- the independent information from comparative tests as a tool of consumer protection policy. The proposed methodological framework and the conclusions drawn form the foundation of future research and policies in this field in Bulgaria.

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