IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Telecommunications Consumers: A Behavioural Economic Analysis


  • Lunn, Pete


This paper argues that telecommunications markets present the consumer with a decision-making environment that is particularly likely to be prone to established biases in consumer decision-making. The analysis identifies four properties of telecommunications markets, which in combination are probably unique and which may make the sector prey to biases identified by behavioural economics. The analysis offers a range of known behavioural phenomena that, first, may help to explain the generally low levels of switching between telecommunications providers and, second, could result in failure to select optimum contracts, because of inaccurate expectations of usage or time inconsistent preferences. While more research is required to assess the merit of these hypotheses, they raise the possibility that telecommunications markets may be inefficient and prone to less effective competition than many other consumer markets. Potential policy responses are also discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Lunn, Pete, 2011. "Telecommunications Consumers: A Behavioural Economic Analysis," Papers WP417, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp417

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-Control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402.
    2. Michael Faure & Hanneke Luth, 2011. "Behavioural Economics in Unfair Contract Terms," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 337-358, September.
    3. Paul Klemperer, 1995. "Competition when Consumers have Switching Costs: An Overview with Applications to Industrial Organization, Macroeconomics, and International Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 515-539.
    4. Knetsch, Jack L, 1989. "The Endowment Effect and Evidence of Nonreversible Indifference Curves," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1277-1284, December.
    5. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    6. Craig R. Fox & Amos Tversky, 1995. "Ambiguity Aversion and Comparative Ignorance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 585-603.
    7. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
    8. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    9. Kenneth E. Train & Daniel L. McFadden & Moshe Ben-Akiva, 1987. "The Demand for Local Telephone Service: A Fully Discrete Model of Residential Calling Patterns and Service Choices," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(1), pages 109-123, Spring.
    10. Michael D. Grubb, 2009. "Selling to Overconfident Consumers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1770-1807, December.
    11. Chris M. Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2010. "Do consumers switch to the best supplier?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 647-668, October.
    12. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71.
    13. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
    14. John A. List, 2004. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(2), pages 615-625, March.
    15. Sayman, Serdar & Onculer, Ayse, 2005. "Effects of study design characteristics on the WTA-WTP disparity: A meta analytical framework," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 289-312, April.
    16. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
    17. Jones, Michael A. & Mothersbaugh, David L. & Beatty, Sharon E., 2002. "Why customers stay: measuring the underlying dimensions of services switching costs and managing their differential strategic outcomes," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 55(6), pages 441-450, June.
    18. Paul Klemperer, 1987. "Markets with Consumer Switching Costs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 375-394.
    19. Brennan, Timothy J., 2007. "Consumer preference not to choose: Methodological and policy implications," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1616-1627, March.
    20. Hans-W. Micklitz & Lucia Reisch & Kornelia Hagen, 2011. "An Introduction to the Special Issue on “Behavioural Economics, Consumer Policy, and Consumer Law”," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 271-276, September.
    21. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. "Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
    22. Charles R. Plott & Kathryn Zeiler, 2007. "Exchange Asymmetries Incorrectly Interpreted as Evidence of Endowment Effect Theory and Prospect Theory?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1449-1466, September.
    23. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
    24. Daniel Kahneman & Jack L. Knetsch & Richard H. Thaler, 1991. "Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 193-206, Winter.
    25. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    26. Matthew Bennett & Unknown & Amelia Fletcher & Liz Hurley & David Ruck, 2010. "What Does Behavioral Economics Mean for Competition Policy?," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 6.
    27. Heath, Chip & Tversky, Amos, 1991. "Preference and Belief: Ambiguity and Competence in Choice under Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 5-28, January.
    28. Klemperer, Paul D, 1987. "Entry Deterrence in Markets with Consumer Switching Costs," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(388a), pages 99-117, Supplemen.
    29. Monica Giulietti & Catherine Waddams Price & Michael Waterson, 2005. "Consumer Choice and Competition Policy: a Study of UK Energy Markets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(506), pages 949-968, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Mwakatumbula, Hilda J. & Moshi, GoodielC. & Mitomo, Hitoshi, 2015. "Consumer Awareness And Protection In Telecommunication Markets: Case Of Tanzania; Determinant Of Consumers’ Knowledge On Their Rights," 26th European Regional ITS Conference, Madrid 2015 127161, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    2. Peter Lunn, 2015. "Are Consumer Decision-Making Phenomena a Fourth Market Failure?," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 315-330, September.
    3. Peter D., Lunn & Sean, Lyons, 2017. "Consumer switching intentions for telecoms services: evidence from Ireland," MPRA Paper 77412, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Xue, Lian & Sitzia, Stefania & Turocy, Theodore L., 2017. "Mathematics self-confidence and the “prepayment effect” in riskless choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 239-250.
    5. Stefania Sitzia & Jiwei Zheng & Daniel Zizzo, 2015. "Inattentive consumers in markets for services," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 79(2), pages 307-332, September.

    More about this item


    Policy/Telecommunications/Decision-making biases/Behavioural economics/Regulation;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp417. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sarah Burns). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.