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Market Structure, Reputation, and the Value of Quality Certification

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  • Daniel W. Elfenbein
  • Raymond Fisman
  • Brian McManus

Abstract

Quality certification programs help consumers identify high-quality products or sellers in markets with information asymmetries. Using data from eBay UK's online marketplace, we study how certification's impact on demand varies with market- and seller- level attributes, exploiting variation in sellers' certification status within groups of near-identical listings. The positive effects of eBay's "top rated seller" certification are stronger for categories with few other certified sellers, in more competitive markets, and for sellers with shorter records of past performance. These findings indicate certification provides more value when certification is rare, the product space is crowded, and for sellers lacking established reputations. (JEL D12, D82, L15, L86)

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel W. Elfenbein & Raymond Fisman & Brian McManus, 2015. "Market Structure, Reputation, and the Value of Quality Certification," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 83-108, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:7:y:2015:i:4:p:83-108
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.20130182
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Information Revelation and Certification Intermediaries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(2), pages 214-231, Summer.
    2. 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.
    3. David Dranove & Daniel Kessler & Mark McClellan & Mark Satterthwaite, 2003. "Is More Information Better? The Effects of "Report Cards" on Health Care Providers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 555-588, June.
    4. David Lucking-Reiley & Doug Bryan & Naghi Prasad & Daniel Reeves, 2007. "PENNIES FROM EBAY: THE DETERMINANTS OF PRICE IN ONLINE AUCTIONS -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(2), pages 223-233, June.
    5. 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.
    6. Bradley S. Wimmer & Brian Chezum, 2003. "An Empirical Examination of Quality Certification in a "Lemons Market"," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(2), pages 279-291, April.
    7. Daniel W. Elfenbein & Ray Fisman & Brian Mcmanus, 2012. "Charity as a Substitute for Reputation: Evidence from an Online Marketplace," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1441-1468.
    8. 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.
    9. Daniel W. Elfenbein & Brian McManus, 2010. "A Greater Price for a Greater Good? Evidence That Consumers Pay More for Charity-Linked Products," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 28-60, May.
    10. James W. Roberts, 2011. "Can Warranties Substitute for Reputations?," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 69-85, August.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. David Dranove & Ginger Zhe Jin, 2010. "Quality Disclosure and Certification: Theory and Practice," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 935-963, December.
    14. Carl Shapiro, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 659-679.
    15. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:ecolet:v:163:y:2018:i:c:p:72-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Agrawal, Ajay & Lacetera, Nicola & Lyons, Elizabeth, 2016. "Does standardized information in online markets disproportionately benefit job applicants from less developed countries?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 1-12.
    3. repec:eee:ecolet:v:163:y:2018:i:c:p:36-39 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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