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Ad-valorem platform fees and efficient price discrimination

  • Zhu Wang
  • Julian Wright

This paper investigates a puzzle and possible policy concern: Why do platforms such as eBay and Visa that enable the trade of goods of different unobserved costs and values rely predominantly on linear ad-valorem fees, that is, fees that increase in proportion to the sale price of the trades that they enable? Under a broad class of demand functions, we show that a linear ad-valorem fee schedule enables a platform to maximize its profit as if it could actually observe the costs and values of the goods traded and set a different optimal fee for each good. Surprisingly, we find for this class of demands, allowing the platform to set ad-valorem fees (i.e. price discriminate) increases social welfare, both when the platform is regulated to recover costs and when the platform is unregulated.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in its series Working Paper with number 12-08.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:12-08
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  1. Jeremy Bulow & Paul Klemperer, 2012. "Regulated Prices, Rent Seeking, and Consumer Surplus," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(1), pages 160 - 186.
  2. Richard Schmalensee, 2001. "Payment Systems and Interchange Fees," NBER Working Papers 8256, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Malueg, D.A. & Schwartz, M., 1993. "Parallel Imports, Demand Dispersion and International Price Discrimination," Papers 93-6, U.S. Department of Justice - Antitrust Division.
  4. Simon Loertscher & Andras Niedermayer, 2008. "Fee Setting Intermediaries: On Real Estate Agents, Stock Brokers, and Auction Houses," Discussion Papers 1472, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. John Vickers & Simon Cowan, 2007. "Output and Welfare Effects in the Classic Monopoly Price Discrimination Problem," Economics Series Working Papers 355, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Triole, 2002. "Platform Competition in Two Sided Markets," FMG Discussion Papers dp409, Financial Markets Group.
  7. Julian Wright, 2012. "Why payment card fees are biased against retailers," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(4), pages 761-780, December.
  8. Schmalensee, Richard., 1980. "Output and welfare implications of monopolistic third-degree price discrimination," Working papers 1095-80., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  9. Gans Joshua S & King Stephen P, 2003. "The Neutrality of Interchange Fees in Payment Systems," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
  10. Johannes Muthers & Sebastian Wismer, 2012. "Why Do Platforms Charge Proportional Fees? Commitment and Seller Participation," Working Papers 115, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
  11. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Cooperation Among Competitors: Some Economics Of Payment Card Associations," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 549-570, Winter.
  12. E. Glen Weyl, 2010. "A Price Theory of Multi-sided Platforms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1642-72, September.
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