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How Do Consumers Motivate Experts? Reputational Incentives in an Auto Repair Market

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  • Hubbard, Thomas N

Abstract

Moral hazard exists in expert-service markets because sellers have an incentive to shade their reports of the buyer's condition to increase the short-run demand for their services. The California vehicle emission inspection market offers a rare opportunity to examine how reputational incentives work in such a market. I show that consumers are 30 percent more likely to return to a firm at which they previously passed than to one at which they previously failed and that demand is sensitive to a firm's failure rate across all consumers. These and other results suggest that demand incentives are strong in this market because consumers believe that firms differ greatly in their consumer friendliness and are skeptical even about those they choose. Weak demand incentives in other expert-service markets are not a direct consequence of moral hazard, but rather of its interaction with switching costs and consumers' belief that firms are relatively homogeneous. Copyright 2002 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Hubbard, Thomas N, 2002. "How Do Consumers Motivate Experts? Reputational Incentives in an Auto Repair Market," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 437-468, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:45:y:2002:i:2:p:437-68
    DOI: 10.1086/340086
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven Tadelis, 1999. "What's in a Name? Reputation as a Tradeable Asset," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 548-563, June.
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    4. Thomas N. Hubbard, 1997. "Using Inspection And Maintenance Programs To Regulate Vehicle Emissions," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(2), pages 52-62, April.
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    7. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-641, August.
    8. Thomas N. Hubbard, 1998. "An Empirical Examination of Moral Hazard in the Vehicle Inspection Market," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(2), pages 406-426, Summer.
    9. Darby, Michael R & Karni, Edi, 1973. "Free Competition and the Optimal Amount of Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 67-88, April.
    10. Jonathan Gruber & Maria Owings, 1996. "Physician Financial Incentives and Cesarean Section Delivery," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(1), pages 99-123, Spring.
    11. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
    12. Carl Shapiro, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 659-679.
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