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Power to Choose? An Analysis of Consumer Inertia in the Residential Electricity Market

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  • Ali Hortaçsu
  • Seyed Ali Madanizadeh
  • Steven L. Puller

Abstract

Many jurisdictions around the world have deregulated utilities and opened retail markets to competition. However, inertial decision making can diminish consumer benefits of retail competition. Using household-level data from the Texas residential electricity market, we document evidence of consumer inertia. We estimate an econometric model of retail choice to measure two sources of inertia: search frictions/inattention and a brand advantage that consumers afford the incumbent. We find that households rarely search for alternative retailers, and when they do search, households attach a brand advantage to the incumbent. Counterfactual experiments show that low-cost information interventions can notably increase consumer surplus.

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  • Ali Hortaçsu & Seyed Ali Madanizadeh & Steven L. Puller, 2017. "Power to Choose? An Analysis of Consumer Inertia in the Residential Electricity Market," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 192-226, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:192-226
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.20150235
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • L98 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Government Policy
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing

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