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Price Wars Caused by Switching Costs


  • Paul Klemperer


In many markets consumers have "switching costs", for example learning costs or transaction costs, of changing between functionally equivalent brands of a product, or of using any brand for the first time. We analyse a four-period complete-information model of a market with switching costs in which new entry occurs after the second period. The new entry results, in equilibrium, in a price war. That is, the new entrants' prices are higher in the post-entry period than in the entry period, and the incumbent's price falls in either the pre-entry period or the entry period and subsequently rises. We can interpret the incumbent's lowering its price in the pre-entry period as limit-pricing behaviour. We distinguish between two types of price war that can occur, and show how the type or mixture of types that arises depends on the size of switching costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Klemperer, 1989. "Price Wars Caused by Switching Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(3), pages 405-420.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:56:y:1989:i:3:p:405-420.

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