Unethical consumer behavior: the role of institutional and socio-cultural factors

Arpita Agnihotri, Saurabh Bhattacharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore how institutional trust, frugality and materialism motivate consumers’ unethical behavior. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted the study in two phases – qualitative and quantitative. In the qualitative phase through a content analysis of semi-structured interviews, a list of unethical activities was obtained. In the quantitative phase, a questionnaire was developed, which had questions related to the unethical activities. Data collection for the quantitative phase was achieved through mall intercept surveys. The collected data were subjected to exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis and multivariate regression analysis. Findings: Poor institutional environment, frugal attitude and materialistic values motivate consumers from an emerging economy to indulge in unethical acts some of which were not explored before such as booking a cab but not boarding or stealing electricity. Originality/value: Research evidence on unethical consumer behavior is lacking from emerging markets. Furthermore, extant studies have used mainly national culture models to explore unethical behavior, and finally, the role of institutional trust and frugality has not been explored in previous studies. The present study tries to fill these gaps by considering these elements as the cornerstone of this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-135
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 8 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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