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Excessive Competition for Headline Prices

Author

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  • Inderst, Roman
  • Obradovits, Martin

Abstract

When firms' shrouding of charges, as in Gabaix and Laibson (2006), meets with consumers' salient thinking, as in Bordalo et al. (2013), this can have severe welfare implications. The ensuing excessive competition for headline prices tends to inefficiently bias consumers' choice towards low-quality products, which is compounded when firms react and reduce quality beyond what would be cost efficient. As more intense shopping leads to a greater pass through of shrouded charges into lower headline prices, which aggravates the problem, competition policy is no substitute for consumer protection policy. While in our model all consumers are potential victims of salient thinking and shrouded charges, salient thinking becomes effective only for those who are attentive to different offers. Attentive consumers are likely to show ex-post regret and they can be ex-ante worse off, even though their choice set is larger. The combination of shrouding and salient thinking can sufficiently disadvantage high-quality firms so as to make them willing to educate consumers and unshroud all charges. While there is no unshrouding on equilibrium, high-quality firms' threat of unshrouding may sufficiently discipline firms to make efficient product choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Inderst, Roman & Obradovits, Martin, 2016. "Excessive Competition for Headline Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 11284, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11284
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Neal M. Stoughton & Youchang Wu & Josef Zechner, 2011. "Intermediated Investment Management," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(3), pages 947-980, June.
    2. Paul Heidhues & Botond Kőszegi & Takeshi Murooka, 2017. "Inferior Products and Profitable Deception," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(1), pages 323-356.
    3. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2013. "Salience and Consumer Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(5), pages 803-843.
    4. Patrick Bolton & Xavier Freixas & Joel Shapiro, 2012. "The Credit Ratings Game," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(1), pages 85-112, February.
    5. Paul Heidhues & Botond K?szegi & Takeshi Murooka, 2016. "Exploitative Innovation," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-23, February.
    6. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2016. "Competition for Attention," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 481-513.
    7. Mark Armstrong & John Vickers, 2012. "Consumer Protection and Contingent Charges," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(2), pages 477-493, June.
    8. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2018. "Shrouded attributes, consumer myopia and information suppression in competitive markets," Chapters, in: Victor J. Tremblay & Elizabeth Schroeder & Carol Horton Tremblay (ed.),Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization, chapter 3, pages 40-74, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Baye, Michael R. & Kovenock, Dan & de Vries, Casper G., 1992. "It takes two to tango: Equilibria in a model of sales," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 493-510, October.
    10. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2015. "Memory, Attention and Choice," Working Paper 237951, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    11. Botond Koszegi & Adam Szeidl, 2013. "A Model of Focusing in Economic Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 53-104.
    12. repec:oup:restud:v:84:y::i:1:p:323-356. is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Roman Inderst & Marco Ottaviani, 2013. "Sales Talk, Cancellation Terms and the Role of Consumer Protection," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 1002-1026.
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    Cited by:

    1. Claire Célérier & Boris Vallée, 2016. "Catering to investors through product complexity," ESRB Working Paper Series 14, European Systemic Risk Board.
    2. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Köster, Mats, 2020. "Attention to online sales: The role of brand image concerns," DICE Discussion Papers 335, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    attention; hidden fees; price competition; salience; shopping; shrouded charges; unshrouding;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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