Regulating Unverifiable Quality by Fixed-Price Contracts
AbstractWe apply the idea of relational contracting to a simple problem of regulating a single-product monopoly with unverifiable (then ex ante not contractible) quality. We model the interaction between the regulator and the firm as an infinitely repeated game; we observe that there exist self-enforcing contracts in which the regulator, using her discretionary power on the price (the contractible variable) can induce the firm to produce the required quality level by leaving it a positive rent. When players use grim trigger strategies, the optimal self-enforcing contract implies a distortion from the second best which is greater the more impatient is the firm and the larger is the effect of the price on the deviation profits. Whenever the equilibrium profits of the static game are strictly positive, even if the firm were infinitely patient, the optimal contract would not reach the second-best: it would ensure a quality-adjusted Ramsey condition and, at the same time, leave positive profits to the firm. We extend the model in a few ways: we find that when players use stick-and-carrot strategies, with an infinitely patient firm the second-best outcome is reached even if this implies to punish the deviating firm with negative profits. When instead the regulator is unable to perfectly monitor the firm's quality choice, the price/quality pair giving the highest payoff to the regulator does not directly depend on the firm's discount factor, which instead affects the probability of punishment. Our results suggest that, in fixed price regulatory contracts, the regulatory lag should be shorter the more relevant is the issue of unverifiability, in order to reduce the reward for opportunistic behavior by the firm.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.
Volume (Year): 12 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (September)
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Web page: http://www.degruyter.com
Other versions of this item:
- Cesi Berardino Author-Name : Alberto Iozzi Author-Name : Edilio Valentini, 2009. "Regulating unverifiable quality by fixed-price contracts," THEMA Working Papers 2009-14, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
- L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
- L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General
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