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Price Competition Under Limited Comparability

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Listed:
  • Michele Piccione
  • Ran Spiegler

Abstract

This article studies market competition when firms can influence consumers' ability to compare market alternatives through their choice of price "formats." In our model, the ability of a consumer to make a comparison depends on the firms' format choices. Our main results concern the interaction between firms' equilibrium price and format decisions and its implications for industry profits and consumer switching rates. In particular, market forces drive down the firms' profits to a "constrained competitive" benchmark if and only if the comparability structure satisfies a property that we interpret as a form of "frame neutrality." The same property is necessary for equilibrium behavior to display statistical independence between price and format decisions. We also show that narrow regulatory interventions that aim to facilitate comparisons may have an anticompetitive effect. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Michele Piccione & Ran Spiegler, 2012. "Price Competition Under Limited Comparability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 97-135.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:127:y:2012:i:1:p:97-135
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjr053
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2008. "Consumer optimism and price discrimination," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(4), December.
    2. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
    3. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2011. "Consideration Sets and Competitive Marketing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 235-262.
    4. Michele Piccione & Ariel Rubinstein, 2003. "Modeling the Economic Interaction of Agents With Diverse Abilities to Recognize Equilibrium Patterns," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(1), pages 212-223, March.
    5. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1993. "On Price Recognition and Computational Complexity in a Monopolistic Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 473-484, June.
    6. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    7. Ran Spiegler, 2006. "The Market for Quacks," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 1113-1131.
    8. Chris M. Wilson, 2008. "Ordered Search and Equilibrium Obfuscation," Economics Series Working Papers 401, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    9. Wilson, Chris M., 2010. "Ordered search and equilibrium obfuscation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 496-506, September.
    10. Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Competition over agents with boundedly rational expectations," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(2), pages 207-231, June.
    11. Glenn Ellison & Alexander Wolitzky, 2012. "A search cost model of obfuscation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(3), pages 417-441, September.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • C79 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Other
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection

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