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Ad-valorem platform fees and efficient price discrimination

Author

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  • Zhu Wang
  • Julian Wright

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhu Wang & Julian Wright, 2012. "Ad-valorem platform fees and efficient price discrimination," Working Paper 12-08, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedrwp:12-08
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Malueg, David A. & Schwartz, Marius, 1994. "Parallel imports, demand dispersion, and international price discrimination," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3-4), pages 167-195, November.
    2. E. Glen Weyl, 2010. "A Price Theory of Multi-sided Platforms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1642-1672, September.
    3. Schmalensee, Richard, 2002. "Payment Systems and Interchange Fees," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 103-122, June.
    4. Julian Wright, 2012. "Why payment card fees are biased against retailers," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(4), pages 761-780, December.
    5. 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.
    6. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2014. "Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 10.
    7. Johannes Muthers & Sebastian Wismer, 2012. "Why Do Platforms Charge Proportional Fees? Commitment and Seller Participation," Working Papers 115, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
    8. 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.
    9. Schmalensee, Richard, 1981. "Output and Welfare Implications of Monopolistic Third-Degree Price Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 242-247, March.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sebastian Wismer, 2013. "Intermediated vs. Direct Sales and a No-Discrimination Rule," Working Papers 131, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).

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    Keywords

    Financial markets ; Payment systems;

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