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(Mis)perceptions of Law in Consumer Markets

Author

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  • Oren Bar-Gill
  • Kevin E. Davis

Abstract

There are good reasons to believe that consumers’ behavior is sometimes influenced by systematic misperceptions of legal norms that govern product quality. Consumers might misperceive specific rules, such as those found in food safety regulations, as well as more general standards, such as the unconscionability doctrine or limitations on waivers of default substantive or procedural rights. When demand is affected by systematic misperceptions of legal norms, lawmakers may be able to maximize welfare by deviating from the legal standard that would be optimal in the absence of misperception. We use a formal model to characterize these optimal deviations under different legal regimes (with different types and magnitudes of sanctions). In particular, should the legal standard be adjusted to counteract or confirm the misperception? For instance, if consumers underestimate the level of legal protection is it desirable to raise the legal standard to counteract the misperception? Or should lawmakers lower the legal standard to confirm the misperception?

Suggested Citation

  • Oren Bar-Gill & Kevin E. Davis, 2017. "(Mis)perceptions of Law in Consumer Markets," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 245-286.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:19:y:2017:i:2:p:245-286.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/aler/ahx009
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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