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Inattentive Consumers and Product Quality

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  • Armstrong, Mark
  • Chen, Yongmin

Abstract

This paper studies a model in which some consumers shop on the basis of price alone, without attention to potential differences in product quality. A firm may offer a low-quality product to exploit these inattentive consumers. In the unique symmetric equilibrium of the model, firms choose prices with mixed strategies, similarly to Varian (1980) in which some consumers purchase from a random seller without attention to market prices. In our model, though, firms also choose quality stochastically, and there is both price and quality dispersion. Two stylized policy interventions are considered: competition policy, which acts to increase the number of sellers, and market transparency reforms which act to increase the fraction of attentive consumers. With fewer inattentive consumers, firms are less likely to "cheat" (i.e., cut quality) which therefore improves welfare, but profit and consumer surplus can either increase or decrease. When there is a large number of sellers, approximately half the sellers cheat (regardless of the fraction of inattentive consumers), and introducing more sellers boosts consumers surplus and reduces profit, while the impact on welfare is ambiguous.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 4797.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:4797

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Keywords: Oligopoly; Complex Products; Market transparency; Competition Policy;

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References

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  1. Stefano DellaVigna, 2009. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 315-72, June.
  2. Glenn Ellison, 2003. "A Model of Add-on Pricing," NBER Working Papers 9721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. Salop, Steven & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510, October.
  5. 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.
  6. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540, May.
  7. Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Does Competition Destroy Ethical Behavior?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 414-418, May.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-59, September.
  11. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Snir, Avichai & Levy, Daniel, 2011. "Shrinking Goods and Sticky Prices: Theory and Evidence," MPRA Paper 29565, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Dubovik, Andrei & Janssen, Maarten C.W., 2012. "Oligopolistic competition in price and quality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 120-138.
  3. Geoffroy de Clippel & Kfir Elias & Kareen Rozen, 2013. "Competing for Consumer Inattention," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1901, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  4. Ioana Chioveanu & Jidong Zhou, 2012. "Price Competition and Consumer Confusion," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 12-08, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
  5. Chen, Yongmin & Zhang, Tianle, 2011. "Equilibrium price dispersion with heterogeneous searchers," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 645-654.
  6. Daniel Levy & Avichai Snir, 2013. "Shrinking Goods," Working Paper Series 20_13, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
  7. Chioveanu, Ioana, 2009. "Price and Quality Competition," MPRA Paper 21647, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Feb 2010.
  8. Christian Schultz, 2007. "Transparency and Product Variety," CIE Discussion Papers 2007-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics.
  9. Nick Vikander, 2014. "Sellouts, Beliefs, and Bandwagon Behavior," Discussion Papers 14-15, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  10. Karle, Heiko & Peitz, Martin, 2010. "Pricing and Information Disclosure in Markets with Loss-Averse Consumers," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 312, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  11. Nagler, Matthew G. & Kronenberg, Fredi & Kennelly, Edward J. & Jiang, Bei & Ma, Chunhui, 2010. "The use of indicators for unobservable product qualities: inferences based on consumer sorting," MPRA Paper 28409, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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