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Inattentive Consumers and Product Quality

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  • Mark Armstrong
  • Yongmin Chen

Abstract

We present a model in which some consumers shop on the basis of price alone, without paying attention to product quality. A firm may "cheat" and offer a worthless product to exploit these inattentive consumers. In the unique symmetric equilibrium, firms follow a mixed strategy involving both price and quality dispersion. The presence of inattentive consumers harms attentive consumers, and enables firms to earn positive profits. With many sellers, approximately half of them will cheat. A market transparency policy which boosts the number of attentive consumers will make firms less inclined to cheat, which improves welfare, but the impact of the policy on profit and consumer surplus is ambiguous. (JEL: D18, L13, L15) (c) 2009 by the European Economic Association.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
Pages: 411-422

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:7:y:2009:i:2-3:p:411-422

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  1. Laibson, David I. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," Scholarly Articles 4554333, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Rosenthal, Robert W, 1980. "A Model in Which an Increase in the Number of Sellers Leads to a Higher Price," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(6), pages 1575-79, September.
  3. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
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  5. Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Does Competition Destroy Ethical Behavior?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 414-418, May.
  6. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and ripoffs: a model of monopolistically competitive price dispersion," Special Studies Papers 94, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. David Dranove & Mark A. Satterthwaite, 1992. "Monopolistic Competition When Price and Quality are Imperfectly Observable," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(4), pages 518-534, Winter.
  8. Chan, Yuk-Shee & Leland, Hayne, 1982. "Prices and Qualities in Markets with Costly Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 499-516, October.
  9. Glenn Ellison, 2005. "A Model of Add-on Pricing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 585-637, May.
  10. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1989. "Imperfect information in the product market," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 769-847 Elsevier.
  11. Leland, Hayne E, 1979. "Quacks, Lemons, and Licensing: A Theory of Minimum Quality Standards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1328-46, December.
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