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Spurious complexity and common standards in markets for consumer goods

Author

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  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. Crosetto, P. & Gaudeul, A., 2014. "Choosing whether to compete: Price and format competition with consumer confusion," Working Papers 2014-08, Grenoble Applied Economics Laboratory (GAEL).
    3. 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.
    4. Paolo Crosetto & Alexia Gaudeul, 2017. "Choosing not to compete: Can firms maintain high prices by confusing consumers?," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 897-922, December.
    5. Robert Sugden & Jiwei Zheng, 2018. "Do Consumers Take Advantage of Common Pricing Standards? An Experimental Investigation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 64(5), pages 2126-2143, May.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Lunn, Pete & Somerville, Jason J., 2015. "Surplus Identification with Non-Linear Returns," Papers WP522, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    9. 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.
    10. Wisnicki, Bartlomiej, 2022. "Consumer inertia fosters product quality," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    11. Ernst Fehr & Keyu Wu, 2021. "Obfuscation in competitive markets," ECON - Working Papers 391, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    12. Bienenstock Sophie, 2018. "Utility Misperception in a Vertically Differentiated Duopoly," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 14(3), pages 1-43, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    common standard; spurious complexity; cognitive limitations;
    All these keywords.

    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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