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Spurious complexity and common standards in markets for consumer goods

Author

Listed:
  • Alexia Gaudeul

    (Jena Graduate School, Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

  • Robert Sugden

    (Centre for Competition Policy and School of Economics, University of East Anglia)

Abstract

It has been argued that cognitively constrained consumers respond sub-optimally to complex decision problems, and that firms can exploit these limitations by introducing spurious complexity into tariff structures, weakening price competition. We model a countervailing force. Restricting one's choices to the most easily comparable options is a psychologically well-attested heuristic. Consumers who use this heuristic favour firms that follow common conventions about tariff structures. Because a 'common standard' promotes price competition, a firm's use of it signals that it offers value for money, validating the heuristic. This allows an equilibrium in which firms use common standards and set competitive prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexia Gaudeul & Robert Sugden, 2009. "Spurious complexity and common standards in markets for consumer goods," Jena Economic Research Papers 2009-084, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
  • Handle: RePEc:jrp:jrpwrp:2009-084
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    File URL: http://www.wiwi.uni-jena.de/Papers/jerp2009/wp_2009_084.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert Sugden, 2004. "The Opportunity Criterion: Consumer Sovereignty Without the Assumption of Coherent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1014-1033, September.
    2. Glenn Ellison, 2005. "A Model of Add-On Pricing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 585-637.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    4. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    5. Chris M. Wilson & Catherine Waddams Price, 2010. "Do consumers switch to the best supplier?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(4), pages 647-668, October.
    6. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    7. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    8. Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Competition over agents with boundedly rational expectations," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(2), pages 207-231, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ioana Chioveanu & Jidong Zhou, 2013. "Price Competition with Consumer Confusion," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(11), pages 2450-2469, November.
    2. Paolo Crosetto & Alexia Gaudeul, 2014. "Choosing whether to compete: Price and format competition with consumer confusion," Jena Economic Research Papers 2014-026, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    3. Paolo Crosetto & Alexia Gaudeul, 2011. "Do consumers prefer offers that are easy to compare? An experimental investigation," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-044, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    4. Robert Sugden & Jiwei Zheng, 2015. "Do consumers take advantage of common pricing standards? An experimental investigation," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 15-12, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    5. Crosetto, Paolo & Gaudeul, Alexia, 2012. "Do consumers prefer offers that are easy to compare? An experimental investigation," MPRA Paper 41462, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Michael Grubb, 2015. "Failing to Choose the Best Price: Theory, Evidence, and Policy," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 47(3), pages 303-340, November.
    7. Lunn, Pete & Somerville, Jason J., 2015. "Surplus Identification with Non-Linear Returns," Papers WP522, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    8. Xue, Lian & Sitzia, Stefania & Turocy, Theodore L., 2017. "Mathematics self-confidence and the “prepayment effect” in riskless choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 239-250.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    common standard; spurious complexity; cognitive limitations;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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