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Does Cost Uncertainty in the Bertrand Model Soften Competition?

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  • Lagerlöf, Johan N. M.

Abstract

Although naive intuition may indicate the opposite, the existing literature suggests that uncertainty about costs in the homogeneous-good Bertrand model intensifies competition: it lowers price and raises total surplus (but also makes profits go up). Those results, however, are derived under two assumptions that, if relaxed, conceivably could reverse the results. The present paper first shows that the results hold also if drastic innovations are possible. Next, the paper assumes asymmetric cost distributions, a possibility that is empirically highly plausible but which has been neglected in the previous literature. Using numerical methods it is shown that, under this assumption, uncertainty lowers price and raises total surplus even more than with identical distributions. However, if the asymmetry is large enough, industry profits are lower under uncertainty; this is in contrast to the known results and reinforces the notion that uncertainty intensifies competition rather than softens it.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8817.

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Date of creation: Feb 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8817

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Keywords: asymmetric auctions; asymmetric firms; auctions with endogenous quantity; Bertrand competition; boundary value method; Hansen-Spulber model; information sharing; oligopoly; private information;

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  1. Fibich, Gadi & Gavish, Nir, 2011. "Numerical simulations of asymmetric first-price auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 479-495.
  2. Paul Klemperer, 1999. "Auction Theory: A Guide to the Literature," Economics Series Working Papers 1999-W12, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Kirkegaard, René, 2009. "Asymmetric first price auctions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(4), pages 1617-1635, July.
  4. Li, Huagang & Riley, John G., 2007. "Auction choice," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 1269-1298, December.
  5. Lofaro, Andrea, 2002. "On the efficiency of Bertrand and Cournot competition under incomplete information," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 561-578, September.
  6. Blume, Andreas, 2003. "Bertrand without fudge," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 167-168, February.
  7. Marshall Robert C. & Meurer Michael J. & Richard Jean-Francois & Stromquist Walter, 1994. "Numerical Analysis of Asymmetric First Price Auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 193-220, September.
  8. Leandro Arozamena & erico Weinschelbaum, 2008. "Simultaneous vs. Sequential Price Competition with Incomplete Information," Department of Economics Working Papers 2008_3, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella.
  9. Maskin, Eric & Riley, John, 2000. "Asymmetric Auctions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 413-38, July.
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