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Do Consumers Switch to the Best Supplier?


  • Chris Wilson

    (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

  • Catherine Waddams Price

    (Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia)


This paper assesses the ability of consumers to choose between alternative suppliers. Across two independent datasets from the UK electricity market we find that consumers switching exclusively for price reasons appropriated only a quarter to half of the maximum gains available. While such behaviour can be explained by high search costs, the observation that 20-31% of the consumers actually reduced their surplus as a result of switching cannot. A brief analysis rejects an explanation involving suppliers' mis-selling tactics. Consumers may need direct protection, as well as good information, if their decisions are insufficiently accurate to engender competitive markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2007. "Do Consumers Switch to the Best Supplier?," Working Papers 07-6, Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia.
  • Handle: RePEc:ccp:wpaper:wp07-06

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    Search costs; switching costs; decision errors; mis-selling;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L00 - Industrial Organization - - General - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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