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Products Liability, Signaling and Disclosure

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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

In this paper we examine the behavior of a firm that produces a product with a privately-observed safety attribute; that is, consumers cannot observe directly the product�s safety. The firm may, at a cost, disclose its safety prior to sale; alternatively, if a firm does not disclose its safety then consumers can attempt to infer its safety from the price charged. The liability system is important because it is a determinant of the firm�s full marginal cost, which consists of both manufacturing cost and liability cost. If the firm does not bear substantial liability for a consumer�s harm, then the firm�s marginal cost consists mainly of manufacturing cost, which is presumably higher for safer products. On the other hand, if the firm does bear substantial liability for a consumer�s harm, then the firm�s marginal cost consists of both manufacturing cost and liability cost. In this case, it is quite possible for a firm producing a safer product to have lower full marginal cost. We characterize the firm�s equilibrium disclosure and pricing behavior, and compare that behavior and the associated welfare to what would occur under a regime of mandatory disclosure. We derive a range of disclosure costs that would induce a high-safety firm to choose disclosure over signaling. When the firm�s full marginal cost is increasing (decreasing) in safety, a firm with a high-safety product will sometimes inefficiently choose to signal rather than disclose (disclose rather than to signal). Furthermore, we find that whether ex ante information regulation (in the form of mandatory disclosure) or reliance on ex post liability that induces information revelation is the better policy also depends upon whether the firm faces substantial liability for a consumer�s harm. Finally, we find that a small fraction of naively optimistic consumers (who always buy as if the product were of high safety) leads to higher profits for both less-safe and safer products, and a reduced incentive for voluntary disclosure.

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File URL: http://www.accessecon.com/pubs/VUECON/vu06-w25.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 0625.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0625

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

Related research

Keywords: Products liability; disclosure; signaling; safety; quality;

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References

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  1. Bagwell, Kyle & Riordan, Michael H, 1991. "High and Declining Prices Signal Product Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 224-39, March.
  2. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  3. Claude Fluet & Paolo G. Garella, 1999. "Advertising and Prices as Signals of Quality in a Regime of Price Rivalry," Cahiers de recherche du Département des sciences économiques, UQAM 9903, Université du Québec à Montréal, Département des sciences économiques.
  4. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 2006. "Mandatory versus Voluntary Disclosure of Product Risks," Discussion Papers 06-006, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  5. Paul R. Milgrom, 1979. "Good Nevs and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Discussion Papers 407R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  6. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2005. "Secrecy and Safety," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1074-1091, September.
  7. Michael J. Fishman & Kathleen M. Hagerty, 2003. "Mandatory Versus Voluntary Disclosure in Markets with Informed and Uninformed Customers," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 45-63, April.
  8. Dan Levin & James Peck & Lixin Ye, 2009. "QUALITY DISCLOSURE AND COMPETITION -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(1), pages 167-196, 03.
  9. 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.
  10. Oliver Board, 2009. "COMPETITION AND DISCLOSURE -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(1), pages 197-213, 03.
  11. Kyle Bagwell, 1991. "Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality," Discussion Papers 921, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  12. Paul Milgrom & John Roberts, 1986. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 18-32, Spring.
  13. Fabio Caldieraro & Dongsoo Shin & Andrew Stivers, 2011. "Voluntary Quality Disclosure under Price‐Signaling Competition," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32, pages 493-504, December.
  14. 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.
  15. Steven Shavell, 1994. "Acquisition and Disclosure of Information Prior to Sale," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(1), pages 20-36, Spring.
  16. Shiou Shieh, 1993. "Incentives for Cost-Reducing Investment in a Signalling Model of Product Quality," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(3), pages 466-477, Autumn.
  17. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2007. "Communicating Quality: A Unified Model of Disclosure and Signaling," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0703, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  18. Cai, Hongbin & Riley, John & Ye, Lixin, 2007. "Reserve price signaling," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 253-268, July.
  19. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2004. "Competition and Confidentiality: Signaling Quality in a Duopoly when there is Universal Private Information," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0417, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  20. Boyan Jovanovic, 1982. "Truthful Disclosure of Information," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(1), pages 36-44, Spring.
  21. Daughety, Andrew & Reinganum, Jennifer, 1992. "Product Safety: Liability, R & D and Signaling," Working Papers 94-17, University of Iowa, Department of Economics, revised 1994.
  22. Helmut Bester, 1998. "Quality Uncertainty Mitigates Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(4), pages 828-844, Winter.
  23. Insuk Cheong & Jeong-Yoo Kim, 2004. "Costly Information Disclosure in Oligopoly," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 121-132, 03.
  24. Steven Matthews & Andrew Postlewaite, 1985. "Quality Testing and Disclosure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 16(3), pages 328-340, Autumn.
  25. 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.
  26. W. Kip Viscusi, 1978. "A Note on "Lemons" Markets with Quality Certification," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(1), pages 277-279, Spring.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Florian Baumann & Tim Friehe, 2010. "Product liability and the virtues of asymmetric information," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 100(1), pages 19-32, May.
  2. Florian Baumann & Tim Friehe & Kristoffel Grechenig, 2010. "Switching Consumers and Product Liability: On the Optimality of Incomplete Strict Liability," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2010_03, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  3. Baumann, Florian & Friehe, Tim & Grechenig, Kristoffel, 2011. "A note on the optimality of (even more) incomplete strict liability," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 77-82, June.
  4. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2007. "Communicating Quality: A Unified Model of Disclosure and Signaling," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0703, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  5. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2011. "Economic Analysis of Products Liability: Theory," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1107, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.

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