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Competition and Confidentiality: Signaling Quality in a Duopoly when there is Universal Private Information

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  • Andrew F. Daughety

    ()
    (Department of Economics and Law School, Vanderbilt University)

  • Jennifer F. Reinganum

    ()
    (Department of Economics and Law School, Vanderbilt University)

Abstract

How does the need to signal quality through price affect equilibrium pricing and profits, when a firm faces a similarly-situated rival? In this paper, we provide a model of non-cooperative signaling by two firms that compete over a continuum of consumers. We assume "universal incomplete information;" that is, each market participant has some private information: each consumer has private information about the intensity of her preferences for the firms' respective products and each firm has private information about its own product's quality. We characterize a symmetric separating equilibrium in which each firm's price reveals its respective product quality. We focus mainly on a model in which the quality attribute is safety (so that the legal system is brought into play) and quality is unobservable due to the use of confidential settlements; a particular specification of parameters yields a common model from the industrial organization literature in which quality is interpreted as the probability that a consumer will find the good satisfactory. We show that the equilibrium prices, the difference between those prices, the associated outputs, and profits are all increasing functions of the ex ante probability of high safety. When quality is interpreted as consumer satisfaction, unobservable quality causes all prices to be distorted upward, and lowers average quality and ex ante expected social welfare, but increases ex ante expected firm profits (when either the probability of high quality or the extent of horizontal product differentiation is sufficiently high). When quality is interpreted as product safety, the foregoing results are modified in that for some parameter values ex ante expected social welfare is higher under confidentiality because such legal secrecy lowers expected litigation costs.

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File URL: http://www.accessecon.com/pubs/VUECON/vu04-w17.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Vanderbilt University Department of Economics in its series Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers with number 0417.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0417

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Web page: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/econ/wparchive/index.html

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Keywords: Signaling; quality; safety; confidentiality; duopoly;

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  1. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2005. "Secrecy and Safety," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1074-1091, September.
  2. Martin, Stephen, 1995. "Oligopoly limit pricing: Strategic substitutes, strategic complements," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 41-65, March.
  3. Fluet, Claude & Garella, Paolo G., 2002. "Advertising and prices as signals of quality in a regime of price rivalry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(7), pages 907-930, September.
  4. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1999. "Hush Money," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(4), pages 661-678, Winter.
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  10. Mailath, George J., 1988. "An abstract two-period game with simultaneous signaling--Existence of separating equilibria," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 373-394, December.
  11. Orzach, Ram & Tauman, Yair, 1996. "Signalling Reversal," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 37(2), pages 453-64, May.
  12. Yang, Bill Z., 1996. "Litigation, experimentation, and reputation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 491-502, December.
  13. Kyle Bagwell, 1991. "Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality," Discussion Papers 921, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  14. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
  15. Daughety, Andrew & Reinganum, Jennifer, 1992. "Product Safety: Liability, R & D and Signaling," Working Papers 94-17, University of Iowa, Department of Economics, revised 1994.
  16. Laurent Linnemer, 1998. "Entry Deterrence, Product Quality: Price and Advertising as Signals," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(4), pages 615-645, December.
  17. Steven A. Matthews & Leonard J. Mirman, 1981. "Equilibrium Limit Pricing: The Effects of Private Information and Stochastic Demand," Discussion Papers 494, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  18. Mark N. Hertzendorf & Per Baltzer Overgaard, 2001. "Price Competition and Advertising Signals: Signaling by Competing Senders," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(4), pages 621-662, December.
  19. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, January.
  20. In-Koo Cho & David M. Kreps, 1997. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," Levine's Working Paper Archive 896, David K. Levine.
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  22. Das Varma, Gopal, 2003. "Bidding for a process innovation under alternative modes of competition," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 15-37, January.
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