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Gain or Pain: Does Consumer Activity Reflect Utility Maximisation?


  • Yoonhee Tina Chang

    (School of Management, University of Bath)

  • Catherine Waddams Price

    () (Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia)


Competition Authorities are introducing new informational remedies to help consumers search and switch more actively. Using a specially commissioned data set, and unique direct estimates of the gains, search and switching time which consumers anticipate, we examine the determinants of consumer activity in eight markets. We find that expected costs (and to some extent gains) do influence consumers as a utility maximising model would predict; but that their role is small, and other factors, particularly experience of switching in other markets, are also influential. We conclude that consumers’ confidence in their own estimates is crucial in encouraging market activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Yoonhee Tina Chang & Catherine Waddams Price, 2008. "Gain or Pain: Does Consumer Activity Reflect Utility Maximisation?," Working Papers 08-15, Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia.
  • Handle: RePEc:ccp:wpaper:wp08-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Motta, Massimo & Polo, Michele, 2003. "Leniency programs and cartel prosecution," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 347-379, March.
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    3. Jeong-Yoo Kim & Joon Song, 2007. "Signal Jamming in Pretrial Negotiation with Multiple Defendants," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 91(2), pages 177-200, June.
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    5. Joseph E. Harrington, 2008. "OPTIMAL CORPORATE LENIENCY PROGRAMS -super-," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 215-246, June.
    6. Aubert, Cecile & Rey, Patrick & Kovacic, William E., 2006. "The impact of leniency and whistle-blowing programs on cartels," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1241-1266, November.
    7. Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2004. "Divide et Impera: Optimal Leniency Programmes," CEPR Discussion Papers 4840, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Easterbrook, Frank H & Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1980. "Contribution among Antitrust Defendants: A Legal and Economic Analysis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 331-370, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Curtis, John & Devitt, Niamh & di Cosmo, Valeria & Farrell, Niall & FitzGerald, John & Hyland, Marie & Lynch, Muireann & Lyons, Sean & McCoy, Daire & Malaguzzi Valeri, Laura & Walsh, Darragh, 2014. "Irish Energy Policy: An Analysis of Current Issues," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number rs37 edited by FitzGerald, John & Malaguzzi Valeri, Laura.

    More about this item


    consumer behaviour; search and switching; informational remedies;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L88 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Government Policy
    • L98 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Government Policy

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