Young Britons' distrust of entertainment firms' policies and pricing is helping stimulate illegal downloading and file-ripping, according to the findings of new research.

A poll of 18-34 year olds in the United Kingdom, conducted by U.S.-based PR/consulting company Edelman, indicates that levels of suspicion significantly reduces respondents' tendency to purchase entertainment products or services.

Edelman's project revealed that distrust of entertainment companies made consumers more likely to criticize an entertainment company to friends (49%); refuse to buy their products (43%) and share their negative opinions online (37%).

Respondents expressed concerns ranging from their rights over the purchased content, to whether the online proposition represented good value.

"Perceived value-for-money is clearly impacting how entertainment companies are viewed and trusted," commented Gail Becker, global head of Edelman's Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology practice, in a statement.

Also among the findings, 20% of the sample admitted that they would share files illegally online, or had already done so, while 27% admitted they would download content illegally, or have already done so. Almost one-in-four said they would illegally rip copies, or had already done so.

Edelman's research comes just weeks after the Official U.K. Charts Company (OCC) reported a 6% shortfall in U.K. album sales in the first quarter of 2007.

Going forward, building consumer trust should become a "critical communications issue for companies in the sector," Becker added, noting that the research showing that distrust causes consumers not to buy."

"Based on the research," she said, "it looks as though the industry has achieved recognition for making content available legally, perhaps the next phase is to begin shifting the discourse and illustrate the value they provide to entertainment fans."

The entertainment survey was carried out by international research firm, StrategyOne, a subsidiary of Edelman.