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Perfect Price Discrimination is not So Perfect

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  • Sara Hsu
  • David Kiefer

Abstract

The foundation of the accepted theory on two-part tariffs is the partial equilibrium analysis first developed by Oi (1971). He argues that the profit maximum obtains from a lump-sum payment (equal to the consumer surplus) plus a unit price (equal to marginal cost), and that the resulting allocation is Pareto efficient because it is identical to perfect competition (except for lump-sum transfers to the monopoly). He shows that this outcome is identical to first-degree price discrimination. This analysis is widely included in undergraduate and graduate level textbooks, and is often cited as a basis for the public regulation of utilities. A few general equilibrium papers also validate Oi’s partial equilibrium conclusion. By contrast, we present a general equilibrium counterexample that shows that this conventional conclusion cannot be generally correct.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Hsu & David Kiefer, 2005. "Perfect Price Discrimination is not So Perfect," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2005_04, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uta:papers:2005_04
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    File URL: http://economics.utah.edu/research/publications/2005_04.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sherrill Shaffer, 1991. "Efficient two-part tariffs with uncertainty and interdependent demand," Working Papers 91-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    2. Yew-Kwang Ng & Mendel Weisser, 1974. "Optimal Pricing with a Budget Constraint—The Case of the Two-part Tariff," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(3), pages 337-345.
    3. Richard Schmalensee, 1981. "Monopolistic Two-Part Pricing Arrangements," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 445-466, Autumn.
    4. Phlips,Louis, 1983. "The Economics of Price Discrimination," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521283946.
    5. Avishay Braverman & J. Luis Guasch & Steven Salop, 1983. "Defects in Disneyland: Quality Control as a Two-Part Tariff," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(1), pages 121-131.
    6. Martin S. Feldstein, 1972. "Equity and Efficiency in Public Sector Pricing: The Optimal Two-Part Tariff," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 175-187.
    7. Robert D. Willig, 1978. "Pareto-Superior Nonlinear Outlay Schedules," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(1), pages 56-69, Spring.
    8. Brown, Donald J. & Heal, Geoffrey, 1980. "Two-part tariffs, marginal cost pricing and increasing returns in a general equilibrium model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 25-49, February.
    9. Braeutigam, Ronald R., 1989. "Optimal policies for natural monopolies," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 23, pages 1289-1346 Elsevier.
    10. Stephen C. Littlechild, 1975. "Two-Park Tariffs and Consumption Externalities," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 661-670, Autumn.
    11. Walter Y. Oi, 1971. "A Disneyland Dilemma: Two-Part Tariffs for a Mickey Mouse Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(1), pages 77-96.
    12. Shaffer, Sherrill, 1987. "Two-Part Tariffs in a Contestable Natural Monopoly," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 54(215), pages 315-316, August.
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    Keywords

    Oi; partial equalibrium analysis; price discrimination;

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