Monday, 20 April 2009

EU survey finds high levels of trust for consumer associations in the economic crisis

Andrea Wilson, Managing Director of TNS Consumer, explains why the latest European research shows people trust consumer associations almost as much as friends and family:

'When it comes to getting through the current financial crisis, people all across Europe believe that consumer associations are their best friends. Given a list of institutions, including their governments, the International Monetary Fund and unions, more vouchsafe confidence in consumer associations than any other body.

These encouraging findings have been published by TNS’ Momentum study, which looked at the economic and financial crisis and its implications. The company surveyed over 1000 representative adults in each of five countries – UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – in December 2008.

Overall, the survey shows that 79% of Europeans are ‘somewhat or very pessimistic’ about the economic situation of their country and that the majority (56%) are persuaded that the crisis will affect them personally, whilst 80% believe that the crisis will last longer than one year. The level of this pessimism varies little from one country to another.

This gloom is accompanied by a widespread feeling of being well informed about the crisis and of understanding the causes. So, rather than being a vague anxiety, it is a well-supported conviction that the economic situation is serious, is going to get worse and will have, for many, direct consequences on their personal situation and their lifestyle.

At TNS we know that people respond to anxiety in very different ways, from ‘I’ll make this work for me’, which can lead to spending on highly reduced items, to the more cautious ‘splurge on the little luxuries’ (which would account for the rise in self tanning products). In other words, personal response to anxiety drives the nature of ‘belt tightening’ for each individual during the downturn.

However, the study shows that all Europeans have begun to rethink their spending in some way and a majority of them have already begun to reduce it. The primary casualty has been going out to restaurants, cinemas and discos followed by tourism and media subscriptions. In general people across Europe are buying less or delaying spending.

Along with this is a widespread lack of confidence in the ability of institutions to end the crisis. Although local opinions differ greatly, notably concerning the roles of banks and companies but also of international bodies such as the IMF and European institutions, they are united in scepticism about the capacity of governments to influence the course of events.

What’s more, when respondents were asked ‘Do you have confidence in each of the following groups to help you get through the crisis?’ the same institutions were found wanting. However, consumer associations fared much better: in every single country, more people trust them than government, public authorities, banks, building societies and other credit organisations, unions, European institutions or the IMF.

Consumer associations are also a trusted source of information. When compared with government, politicians, companies, brands, the retail sector, unions and the media, consumer associations fare very well. They come second only to friends and relatives in the UK, Italy and Spain; a close second to the media in Germany and in France they are the most trusted category of all.

This research proves that consumer associations are getting their message across loud and clear.'

TNS is the world's largest custom research agency, specialising in consumer, technology, finance, automotive and political and social sectors across more than 70 countries. Please visit www.tnsglobal.com for more information.

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