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Discussion (and evaluation) of the literature

With regard to information on (the topics of) consumer reports, consumer associations and product testing, it was noticeable that the relevant literature originated from rather different fields. The works consulted for this survey, for example, describe the consumer report paradigm from the point of view of the industry (BeerepootSang91) , the social sciences (Box79) and consumer associations in co-operation with various government departments (HellmanTuiter83; Kanis88; Siderius89; Willenborg85).

(BeerepootSang91) describe and compare the different methods for quality control of products. They look at the quality concept mainly from the viewpoint of the producer and consequently refer to quality management. Comparative product testing as carried out by the consumer organizations is treated only superficially.

(Box79), on the other hand, looks at the relation between comparative product testing and the consumer and discusses in particular the way in which product information (i.e. the test results) influences the consumer's purchasing behaviour.

The contributions by Hellman, Kanis, Siderius and Willenborg, all published by the consumer research institute SWOKA, constitute a series of scientific reports describing the phenomena of product information and product testing. The range of existing product information systems (the sum total of product testing and translating test results into product information) is analysed and the different research phases involved in setting up such a system are presented in a structured way. One of the reports also looks into the possibility of the consumer associations having a say in, and contributing to, product innovation.

When comparing the consulted literature, it turned out that the SWOKA reports provide the most diverse and detailed information on the subject of the consumer report paradigm. Nevertheless, the reports do not really specify actual testing procedures and, as for the relevant (basic) concepts, in many cases these are not defined explicitly and unambiguously.

A rather striking aspect of the SWOKA reports is that there are two conflicting lines of reasoning. On the one hand, the authors stress the need to perform tests objectively and effectively, implying that the actual consumers should not be involved. On the other hand, it is considered necessary to establish with the greatest precision the consumers' needs and usage patterns and to include the data in the testing procedure. Some, like (Willenborg85), also regard it as essential that the consumer is involved directly at the stages of establishing the product characteristics and interpreting the test results.

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Next: Literature suggestions (extracted from Up: Looking into the consumer Previous: Basic requirements of comparative