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Sales Talk, Cancellation Terms, and the Role of Consumer Protection

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  • Roman Inderst
  • Marco Ottaviani

Abstract

This paper analyses contract cancellation and product return policies in markets in which sellers advise customers about the suitability of their offering. When customers are fully rational, it is optimal for sellers to offer the right to cancel or return on favorable terms. A generous return policy makes the seller's "cheap talk" at the point of sale credible. This observation provides a possible explanation for the excess refund puzzle and also has implications for the management of customer reviews. When customers are credulous, instead, sellers have an incentive to set unfavorable terms to exploit the inflated beliefs they induce in their customers. The imposition of a minimum statutory standard improves welfare and consumer surplus when customers are credulous. In contrast, competition policy reduces contractual inefficiencies with rational customers, but it is not effective with credulous customers. Keywords: Cheap talk, advice, marketing, credulity, contract cancellation, refund, return policy, consumer protection. JEL Classi?cation: D18 (Consumer Protection), D83 (Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge), L15 (Information and Product Quality), L51 (Economics of Regulation).

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 465.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:465

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  1. Kartik, Navin & Ottaviani, Marco & Squintani, Francesco, 2007. "Credulity, lies, and costly talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 93-116, May.
  2. Stefano Della Vigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402, May.
  3. Igal Hendel & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2002. "The Role of Leasing under Adverse Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 113-143, February.
  4. Spence, A Michael, 1977. "Consumer Misperceptions, Product Failure and Producer Liability," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 561-72, October.
  5. Heski Bar-Isaac & Guillermo Caruana & Vicente Cunat, 2008. "Information Gathering and Marketing," Working Papers 08-17, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  6. Che, Yeon-Koo, 1996. "Customer Return Policies for Experience Goods," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 17-24, March.
  7. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  8. Loewenstein, George & O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2000. "Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5qh6142m, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  9. Pascal Courty & Li Hao, 1997. "Sequential screening," Economics Working Papers 224, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  10. Pitchik, Carolyn & Schotter, Andrew, 1987. "Honesty in a Model of Strategic Information Transmission," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 1032-36, December.
  11. Chrysanthos Dellarocas, 2006. "Strategic Manipulation of Internet Opinion Forums: Implications for Consumers and Firms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(10), pages 1577-1593, October.
  12. Johnson, Justin P & Waldman, Michael, 2003. " Leasing, Lemons, and Buybacks," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 247-65, Summer.
  13. Inderst, Roman & Ottaviani, Marco, 2012. "How (not) to pay for advice: A framework for consumer financial protection," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 393-411.
  14. Marco Ottaviani & Francesco Squintani, 2006. "Naive audience and communication bias," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 129-150, December.
  15. Eric T. Anderson & Karsten Hansen & Duncan Simester, 2009. "The Option Value of Returns: Theory and Empirical Evidence," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(3), pages 405-423, 05-06.
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