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

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  • Roman Inderst
  • Marco Ottaviani

Abstract

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).

Suggested Citation

  • Roman Inderst & Marco Ottaviani, 2012. "Sales Talk, Cancellation Terms, and the Role of Consumer Protection," Working Papers 465, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:465
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Johnson, Justin P & Waldman, Michael, 2003. " Leasing, Lemons, and Buybacks," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 247-265, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:indorg:v:54:y:2017:i:c:p:239-268 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Rhodes, Andrew & Wilson, Chris M, 2015. "False Advertising," MPRA Paper 68869, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Michel, Christian, 2016. "Market Regulation of Voluntary Add-on Contracts," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145892, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Inderst, Roman & Tirosh, Gilad, 2015. "Refunds and returns in a vertically differentiated industry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 44-51.
    5. Inderst, Roman & Obradovits, Martin, 2016. "Excessive Competition for Headline Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 11284, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Inderst, Roman, 2015. "Regulating commissions in markets with advice," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 137-141.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D18 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Protection
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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