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Competition, product safety, and product liability

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  • Chen, Yongmin
  • Hua, Xinyu

Abstract

A firm's incentive to invest in product safety is affected by both the market environment and the liability when its product causes consumer harm. A long-standing question in law and economics is whether competition can (partially) substitute for product liability in motivating firms to improve product safety. We investigate this issue in a spatial model of oligopoly with product differentiation, where reputation provides a market incentive for product safety and higher product liability may distort consumers' incentive for proper product care. We find that partial liability, together with reputation concerns, can motivate firms to make socially desirable safety investment. Increased competition due to less product differentiation lowers equilibrium market price, which diminishes a firm's gain from maintaining reputation and raises the socially desirable product liability. On the other hand, an increase in the number of competitors reduces both the benefit from maintaining reputation and the potential cost savings from cutting back safety investment; consequently, the optimal liability may vary non-monotonically with the number of competitors in the market. In general, therefore, the relationship between competition and product liability is subtle, depending on how competition is measured.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Yongmin & Hua, Xinyu, 2015. "Competition, product safety, and product liability," MPRA Paper 66450, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:66450
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Yongmin, 2020. "Improving market performance in the digital economy," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    2. Ping Lin & Tianle Zhang, 2022. "Product liability, multidimensional R&D and innovation," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 25-45, June.
    3. Tim Friehe & Christoph Rößler & Xiaoge Dong, 2020. "Liability for Third-Party Harm When Harm-Inflicting Consumers Are Present Biased," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 75-104.
    4. Eric Langlais & Andreea Cosnita-Langlais, 2022. "Endogenous market structures, product liability, and the scope of product differentiation," EconomiX Working Papers 2022-18, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    5. Begoña Casino & Lluís M. Granero, 2021. "Green products, market structure, and welfare," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 134(2), pages 103-125, October.
    6. Eric Langlais & Andreea Cosnita-Langlais, 2022. "Incentives to differentiate under environmental liability laws : Product customization and precautionary effort," EconomiX Working Papers 2022-20, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    7. Florian Baumann & Tim Friehe & Alexander Rasch, 2018. "Product Liability in Markets for Vertically Differentiated Products," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 46-81.
    8. Eric Langlais & Maxime Charreire, 2020. "Should environment be a concern for competition policy when firms face environmental liability ?," EconomiX Working Papers 2020-25, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    9. De Chiara, Alessandro & Elizalde, Idoia & Manna, Ester & Segura-Moreiras, Adrian, 2021. "Car accidents in the age of robots," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).
    10. Tim Friehe & Cat Lam Pham & Thomas J. Miceli, 2022. "Product Liability and Strategic Delegation: Endogenous Manager Incentives Promote Strict Liability," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 61(2), pages 149-169, September.
    11. Baumann, Florian & Rasch, Alexander, 2020. "Product liability and reasonable product use," ZEW Discussion Papers 20-071, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    12. Maxime Charreire & Eric Langlais, 2021. "Should environment be a concern for competition policy when firms face environmental liability ?," Post-Print hal-03208691, HAL.
    13. Tim Friehe & Eric Langlais & Elisabeth Schulte, 2022. "Firm Liability When Third Parties and Consumers Incur Cumulative Harm," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 81(1), pages 53-71, January.
    14. Charreire, Maxime & Langlais, Eric, 2021. "Should environment be a concern for competition policy when firms face environmental liability?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    product safety; product liabilty; competition;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality

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