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Sales Talk, Cancellation Terms, and the Role of Consumer Protection

  • Roman Inderst
  • Marco Ottaviani

This paper analyses contract cancellation and product return policies in markets in which sellers advise customers about the suitability of their offering. When customers are fully rational, it is optimal for sellers to offer the right to cancel or return on favorable terms. A generous return policy makes the seller's "cheap talk" at the point of sale credible. This observation provides a possible explanation for the excess refund puzzle and also has implications for the management of customer reviews. When customers are credulous, instead, sellers have an incentive to set unfavorable terms to exploit the inflated beliefs they induce in their customers. The imposition of a minimum statutory standard improves welfare and consumer surplus when customers are credulous. In contrast, competition policy reduces contractual inefficiencies with rational customers, but it is not effective with credulous customers. Keywords: Cheap talk, advice, marketing, credulity, contract cancellation, refund, return policy, consumer protection. JEL Classi?cation: D18 (Consumer Protection), D83 (Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge), L15 (Information and Product Quality), L51 (Economics of Regulation).

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Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 465.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:465
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  1. George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Projection Bias In Predicting Future Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1209-1248, November.
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  8. Marco Ottaviani & Francesco Squintani, 2006. "Naive audience and communication bias," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 129-150, December.
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  10. Chrysanthos Dellarocas, 2006. "Strategic Manipulation of Internet Opinion Forums: Implications for Consumers and Firms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(10), pages 1577-1593, October.
  11. Pascal Courty & Li Hao, 1997. "Sequential screening," Economics Working Papers 224, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  12. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  13. Eric T. Anderson & Karsten Hansen & Duncan Simester, 2009. "The Option Value of Returns: Theory and Empirical Evidence," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(3), pages 405-423, 05-06.
  14. Kartik, Navin & Ottaviani, Marco & Squintani, Francesco, 2007. "Credulity, lies, and costly talk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 93-116, May.
  15. Spence, A Michael, 1977. "Consumer Misperceptions, Product Failure and Producer Liability," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 561-72, October.
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