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Liability versus Regulation for Controlling Product-Related Risks


  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Rebecca Rabon

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Kathleen Segerson

    (University of Connecticut)


Liability and regulation are equally good at controlling product-related risks when consumers suffer the same expected harm and perceive risks correctly. When they misperceive risks, however, liability is preferred because the product price accurately signals risk and therefore induces efficient purchase decisions. When consumers vary in their susceptibility to harm and accurately perceive risk, regulation dominates liability because under regulation, consumers bear their own damages and are therefore induced to self-select in their purchase decisions. When consumers also misperceive risk, however, the choice between the two modes of risk control is ambiguous, with neither being capable of achieving the socially optimal outcome. Generally, regulation is preferred when consumers perceive risks fairly accurately, and liability is preferred when they do not. JEL Classification: K13, L51 Key words: Products liability, regulation, risk perceptions

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas J. Miceli & Rebecca Rabon & Kathleen Segerson, 2012. "Liability versus Regulation for Controlling Product-Related Risks," Working papers 2012-17, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2012-17

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. Mitchell Polinsky & William P. Rogerson, 1983. "Products Liability, Consumer Misperceptions, and Market Power," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 581-589, Autumn.
    2. Michael Spence, 1977. "Consumer Misperceptions, Product Failure and Producer Liability," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 44(3), pages 561-572.
    3. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2013. "Economic analysis of products liability: Theory," Chapters, in: Jennifer H. Arlen (ed.), Research Handbook on the Economics of Torts, chapter 3, pages 69-96, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Bruce Hay & Kathryn E. Spier, 2005. "Manufacturer Liability for Harms Caused by Consumers to Others," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1700-1711, December.
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    More about this item


    products liability; regulation; risk perceptions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K13 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Tort Law and Product Liability; Forensic Economics
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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