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On the economics of labels : how their introduction affects the functioning of markets and the welfare of all participants

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  • Bonroy, O.
  • Constantatos, C.

Abstract

Are labels good or bad for consumers and firms? The answers may seem straightforward since labels improve information, yet economic theory reveals situations where their introduction reduces the welfare of, at least, some market participants. This essay reviews the theoretical literature on labels in order to identify and explain the main reasons that may cause labeling to produce undesirable side-effects. In constrast to early reviews that either concentrate on narrow topics or treat the subject in a more or less informal way, we bring together the main results from all the currently important topics by presenting and discussing the assumptions and model-building underpinning them. The advantage of this approach is that it identifies the origin of the differences between results, thus allowing the synthesis of results that sometimes appear even to be contradictory. We focus on "quality labels" and exemine: i) the impact of labeling on market structure; ii) the side-effects of costly certification; iii) issues related to the label's trustworthiness; iv) the rationale for mandatory vs voluntary labeling; v) the level at which the label's standard is set according to the agency that selects it; vi) the political economy of labels, i.e. pro or anti-label lobbying, lobbying to affect the label's standard, and lobbying in favor or against the label's mandatory imposition. These topics cover a wide range of applications, including GMOs, Organic Produce, Geographic Indicators, Contolled Origin, Eco-Labels, etc. We conclude by identifying topics that need further research.

Suggested Citation

  • Bonroy, O. & Constantatos, C., 2014. "On the economics of labels : how their introduction affects the functioning of markets and the welfare of all participants," Working Papers 2014-03, Grenoble Applied Economics Laboratory (GAEL).
  • Handle: RePEc:gbl:wpaper:2014-03
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    ASYMMETRIC INFORMATION; CERTIFICATION; CREDENCE GOODS; LABELING; MARKET POWER; POLITICAL ECONOMY; REGULATION; VERTICAL PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION; WELFARE;

    JEL classification:

    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L5 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy

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