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Abstract

There is mounting anecdotal and survey evidence of unregulated buying on the Internet, including impulsive and compulsive buying that in extreme cases may constitute a behavioral addiction. Learning theory models of unregulated buying were critically reviewed and reconceptualized in terms of the self-regulatory mechanism from Bandura's (1986) social cognitive theory. A new explanation of unregulated buying was proposed in which depression weakens effective self-regulation. Features that may have encouraged or discouraged unregulated buying were identified at popular electronic commerce sites. Many features may have disrupted accurate self-observation and fostered advantageous social comparisons with other excessive shoppers. The potential for unregulated consumption to disrupt orderly electronic marketplaces was discussed.