Understanding unethical behaviors in online environments

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Academy of Management 2010 Annual Meeting - Dare to Care: Passion and Compassion in Management Practice and Research, AOM 2010, 2010
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B2B online reverse auctions technology (ORAs) emerged as a popular tool for large buying firms in the late 1990s. However, its growing use has been accompanied by a corresponding increase in unethical behaviors to a point that it has been described as the technology that has triggered the most ethical concerns in the e-commerce arena. Online reverse auctions thus provide fertile ground for the study of ethical issues in virtual settings, particularly as there has been little investigation of these issues by the IS community. We adopted a qualitative approach based on a narrative study of a major French retailer and its suppliers. We held seventy interviews with three groups of informants (technology initiators, buyers and suppliers) to explore how these actors interpret and deal with the unethical use of the technology. Our main findings reveal that while there is a consensus on broad ethical criteria, divergences remain about how specific behaviors are interpreted as ethical or non-ethical. Sanctions, a formal ethical charter, learning and utilization strategies were developed as initial solutions to deal with the unethical use of ORAs. At the same time, factors such as public discourse and rumor influenced ethical criteria and the crafting of legal remedies to the unethical use of ORAs.
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