To Buy or Not to Buy? An Experimental Study of Consumer Boycotts in Retail Markets
We experimentally investigate how firms and consumers react to a sudden cost increase in a competitive retail market. We compare two conditions which exclusively differ with respect to how difficult it is to organize and enforce boycotts. We find that cost increases translate into sudden price increases, and that these frequently trigger consumer boycotts. However, consumer boycotts are un-successful in holding down market prices even if collective action problems are completely eliminated. While consumer boycotts do not increase consumer rent, they reduce firm profits and market efficiency. Consumer boycotts apparently serve to punish firms for seemingly unfair price increases.
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