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Experts vs Discounters: Competition and Market Unravelling When Consumers Do Not Know What they Need


  • Dulleck, Uwe
  • Kerschbamer, Rudolf


This paper studies price competition between experts and discounters in a market for credence goods. While experts can identify a consumer's problem by exerting costly but unobservable diagnosis effort, discounters just sell treatments without giving any advice. The unobservability of diagnosis effort induces experts to use their tariffs as signaling devices. This makes them vulnerable to competition by discounters. We explore the conditions under which experts survive competition by discounters and find that there exist situations in which adding a single customer to a large population of existing consumers leads to a switch from an experts only to a discounters only market.

Suggested Citation

  • Dulleck, Uwe & Kerschbamer, Rudolf, 2005. "Experts vs Discounters: Competition and Market Unravelling When Consumers Do Not Know What they Need," CEPR Discussion Papers 5242, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5242

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Winand Emons, 2000. "Product Differentiation and Price Competition Between a Safe and a Risky Seller," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 156(3), pages 431-431, September.
    2. Kai Sülzle & Achim Wambach, 2005. "Insurance in a Market for Credence Goods," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 72(1), pages 159-176.
    3. Winand Emons, 1997. "Credence Goods and Fraudelent Experts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(1), pages 107-119, Spring.
    4. Wolfgang Pesendorfer & Asher Wolinsky, 2003. "Second Opinions and Price Competition: Inefficiency in the Market for Expert Advice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 417-437.
    5. Bouckaert, Jan & Degryse, Hans, 2000. "Price competition between an expert and a non-expert," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 901-923, August.
    6. Asher Wolinsky, 1993. "Competition in a Market for Informed Experts' Services," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(3), pages 380-398, Autumn.
    7. Howard P. Marvel & Stephen McCafferty, 1984. "Resale Price Maintenance and Quality Certification," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 346-359, Autumn.
    8. Klein, Benjamin & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "Vertical Restraints as Contract Enforcement Mechanisms," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 265-297, October.
    9. Taylor, Curtis R, 1995. "The Economics of Breakdowns, Checkups, and Cures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(1), pages 53-74, February.
    10. Patrick Bolton & Giacomo Bonanno, 1988. "Vertical Restraints in a Model of Vertical Differentiation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(3), pages 555-570.
    11. Emons, Winand, 2001. "Credence goods monopolists," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(3-4), pages 375-389, March.
    12. Perry, Martin K & Besanko, David, 1991. "Resale Price Maintenance and Manufacturer Competition for Exclusive Dealerships," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(5), pages 517-544, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rudolf Kerschbamer & Matthias Sutter & Uwe Dulleck, 2009. "The Impact of Distributional Preferences on (Experimental) Markets for Expert Services," Working Papers 2009-28, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    2. Dulleck, Uwe & Kerschbamer, Rudolf, 2009. "Experts vs. discounters: Consumer free-riding and experts withholding advice in markets for credence goods," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 15-23, January.

    More about this item


    credence goods; discounters; experts; vertical restraints;

    JEL classification:

    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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