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Planned Obsolescence and the Provision of Unobservable Quality

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  • Roland Strausz

    () (Free University of Berlin, Department of Economics)

Abstract

This paper develops the idea that obsolescence acts as an incentive device to provide quality for experience goods. The argument is that obsolescence affects the frequency at which consumers repurchase products and may punish producers for a lack of quality. A higher rate of obsolescence enables a firm to convince its consumers that it provides high quality. We identify a trade--off between quality and durability, implying that the two are substitutes. This leads to excessive obsolescence. The inefficiency is due to unobservability and not monopolistic distortions. The theory follows naturally from the theory of repeated games.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Strausz, "undated". "Planned Obsolescence and the Provision of Unobservable Quality," Papers 028, Departmental Working Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:bef:lsbest:028
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    File URL: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/%7Elsbester/papers/obsolescence.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bulow, Jeremy I, 1982. "Durable-Goods Monopolists," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(2), pages 314-332, April.
    2. Peter L. Swan, 1970. "Market Structure and Technological Progress: The Influence of Monopoly on Product Innovation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(4), pages 627-638.
    3. Choi Jay Pil, 2001. "Planned Obsolescence As A Signal of Quality," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(4), pages 59-79.
    4. Jeremy Bulow, 1986. "An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 729-749.
    5. Choi, Jay Pil, 1994. "Network Externality, Compatibility Choice, and Planned Obsolescence," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(2), pages 167-182, June.
    6. Coase, Ronald H, 1972. "Durability and Monopoly," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 143-149, April.
    7. Jae Nahm, 2004. "Durable-Goods Monopoly with Endogenous Innovation," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 303-319, June.
    8. Schmalensee, Richard, 1979. "Market Structure, Durability, and Quality: A Selective Survey," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(2), pages 177-196, April.
    9. 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.
    10. Nelson, Phillip, 1970. "Information and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 311-329, March-Apr.
    11. 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.
    12. E. Kleiman & T. Ophir, 1966. "The Durability of Durable Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(2), pages 165-178.
    13. Michael Waldman, 1993. "A New Perspective on Planned Obsolescence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(1), pages 273-283.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elisabetta Iossa & Patrick Rey, 2014. "Building Reputation For Contract Renewal: Implications For Performance Dynamics And Contract Duration," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 549-574, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Obsolescence; unobservable quality; reputation; repeated games;

    JEL classification:

    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory

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