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Optimal Contracts with Lock-In


  • Farrell, Joseph
  • Shapiro, Carl


The authors analyze incomplete long-term contracts when buyers incur relationship-specific set-up costs and sellers choose product or service quality that is not verifiable to third parties. If set-up costs are observable, the first-best outcome can be achieved even though contracts cannot enforceably specify quality; this does not even require long-term contracts. If set-up costs are unobservable, however, then long-term price contracts can strictly outperform short-term contracts. Equilibrium may involve either inefficiently low quality with no buyer switching or efficient quality with inefficient switching. A policy of taxing switching, or the availability of "budget-breaking" third parties, can improve welfare. Copyright 1989 by American Economic Association.
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  • Farrell, Joseph & Shapiro, Carl, 1987. "Optimal Contracts with Lock-In," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt19f324hf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:econwp:qt19f324hf

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Melitz, Jacques, 1985. "The welfare case for the European Monetary System," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 485-506, December.
    2. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1986. "News or Noise? An Analysis of GNP Revisions," NBER Working Papers 1939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    4. Hughes Hallett, Andrew, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy Design with Incomplete Information: A New Argument for Coordinating Economic Policies," CEPR Discussion Papers 151, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Warwick J. McKibbin & Jeffrey Sachs, 1986. "Coordination of Monetary and Fiscal Policies in the OECD," NBER Working Papers 1800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Holtham, Gerald & Hughes Hallett, Andrew, 1987. "International Policy Cooperation and Model Uncertainty," CEPR Discussion Papers 190, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Canzoneri, Matthew B & Minford, Patrick, 1986. "When International Policy Coordination Matters: An Empirical Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 119, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Zarnowitz, Victor & Moore, Geoffrey H, 1982. "Sequential Signals of Recession and Recovery," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 57-85, January.
    9. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "Can international monetary policy cooperation be counterproductive?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3-4), pages 199-217, May.
    10. Zarnowitz, Victor, 1982. "On Functions, Quality, and Timeliness of Economic Information," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 87-119, January.
    11. Victor Zarnowitz, 1980. "On Functions, Quality, and Timeliness of Economic Information," NBER Working Papers 0608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Gilles Oudiz & Jeffrey Sachs, 1984. "Macroeconomic Policy Coordination among the Industrial Economies," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 15(1), pages 1-76.
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