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Asymmetric Information, Adverse Selection and Online Disclosure: The Case of eBay Motors

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  • Gregory Lewis

Abstract

Since Akerlof (1970), economists have understood the adverse selection problem that information asymmetries can create in used goods markets. The remarkable growth in online used goods auctions thus poses a puzzle. Part of the solution is that sellers voluntarily disclose their private information on the auction web page. This defines a precise contract -- to deliver the car shown for the closing price -- which helps protect the buyer from adverse selection. I test this theory using data from eBay Motors, finding that online disclosures are important price determinants, and that disclosure costs impact both the level of disclosure and prices. (JEL D44, D82, L81)

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Lewis, 2011. "Asymmetric Information, Adverse Selection and Online Disclosure: The Case of eBay Motors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1535-1546, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:4:p:1535-46
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bond, Eric W, 1982. "A Direct Test of the "Lemons" Model: The Market for Used Pickup Trucks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 836-840, September.
    2. Ginger Zhe Jin & Andrew Kato, 2006. "Price, quality, and reputation: evidence from an online field experiment," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 983-1005, December.
    3. Genesove, David, 1993. "Adverse Selection in the Wholesale Used Car Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 644-665, August.
    4. 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 461-483, December.
    5. Ginger Zhe Jin, 2005. "Competition and Disclosure Incentives: An Empirical Study of HMOs," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(1), pages 93-112, Spring.
    6. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    7. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
    8. Mathios, Alan D, 2000. "The Impact of Mandatory Disclosure Laws on Product Choices: An Analysis of the Salad Dressing Market," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 651-677, October.
    9. Daniel Houser & John Wooders, 2006. "Reputation in Auctions: Theory, and Evidence from eBay," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(2), pages 353-369, June.
    10. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2003. "The Effect of Information on Product Quality: Evidence from Restaurant Hygiene Grade Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 409-451.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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