The informational divide
We propose a model of price competition where consumers exogenously differ in the number of prices they compare. Our model can be interpreted either as a non-sequential search model or as a network model of price competition. We show that (i) if consumers who previously just sampled one firm start to compare more prices all types of consumers will expect to pay a lower price and (ii) if consumers who already sampled more than one price sample (even) more prices then there exists a threshold – the informational divide – such that all consumers comparing fewer prices than this threshold will expect to pay a higher price whereas all consumers comparing more prices will expect to pay a lower price than before. Thus increased search can create a negative externality and it is not necessarily beneficial for all consumers.
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