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Products Liability, Signaling and Disclosure

  • Andrew F. Daughety

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Law School, Vanderbilt University)

  • Jennifer F. Reinganum

    ()

    (Department of Economics and Law School, Vanderbilt University)

In this paper we examine the behavior of a firm that produces a product with a privately-observed safety attribute; that is, consumers cannot observe directly the product�s safety. The firm may, at a cost, disclose its safety prior to sale; alternatively, if a firm does not disclose its safety then consumers can attempt to infer its safety from the price charged. The liability system is important because it is a determinant of the firm�s full marginal cost, which consists of both manufacturing cost and liability cost. If the firm does not bear substantial liability for a consumer�s harm, then the firm�s marginal cost consists mainly of manufacturing cost, which is presumably higher for safer products. On the other hand, if the firm does bear substantial liability for a consumer�s harm, then the firm�s marginal cost consists of both manufacturing cost and liability cost. In this case, it is quite possible for a firm producing a safer product to have lower full marginal cost. We characterize the firm�s equilibrium disclosure and pricing behavior, and compare that behavior and the associated welfare to what would occur under a regime of mandatory disclosure. We derive a range of disclosure costs that would induce a high-safety firm to choose disclosure over signaling. When the firm�s full marginal cost is increasing (decreasing) in safety, a firm with a high-safety product will sometimes inefficiently choose to signal rather than disclose (disclose rather than to signal). Furthermore, we find that whether ex ante information regulation (in the form of mandatory disclosure) or reliance on ex post liability that induces information revelation is the better policy also depends upon whether the firm faces substantial liability for a consumer�s harm. Finally, we find that a small fraction of naively optimistic consumers (who always buy as if the product were of high safety) leads to higher profits for both less-safe and safer products, and a reduced incentive for voluntary disclosure.

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File URL: http://www.accessecon.com/pubs/VUECON/vu06-w25.pdf
File Function: First version, 2006
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Paper provided by Vanderbilt University Department of Economics in its series Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers with number 0625.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0625
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/econ/wparchive/index.html

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  1. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 2006. "Mandatory Versus Voluntary Disclosure of Product Risks," NBER Working Papers 12776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Fluet, Claude & Garella, Paolo G., 2002. "Advertising and prices as signals of quality in a regime of price rivalry," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(7), pages 907-930, September.
  3. Mark N. Hertzendorf & Per Baltzer Overgaard, 2001. "Price Competition and Advertising Signals: Signaling by Competing Senders," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(4), pages 621-662, December.
  4. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2007. "Communicating Quality: A Unified Model of Disclosure and Signaling," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0703, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  5. Fabio Caldieraro & Dongsoo Shin & Andrew Stivers, 2011. "Voluntary Quality Disclosure under Price‐Signaling Competition," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32, pages 493-504, December.
  6. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2005. "Secrecy and Safety," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1074-1091, September.
  7. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1994. "Product Safety: Liability, R&D and Signaling," Game Theory and Information 9403007, EconWPA, revised 30 Mar 1994.
  8. Steven Matthews & Andrew Postlewaite, 1985. "Quality Testing and Disclosure," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 16(3), pages 328-340, Autumn.
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  12. Steven Shavell, 1994. "Acquisition and Disclosure of Information Prior to Sale," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(1), pages 20-36, Spring.
  13. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
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  15. Paul R. Milgrom, 1979. "Good Nevs and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Discussion Papers 407R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  16. Kyle Bagwell, 1991. "Pricing to Signal Product Line Quality," Discussion Papers 921, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  17. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  18. Shiou Shieh, 1993. "Incentives for Cost-Reducing Investment in a Signalling Model of Product Quality," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(3), pages 466-477, Autumn.
  19. Helmut Bester, 1998. "Quality Uncertainty Mitigates Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 29(4), pages 828-844, Winter.
  20. Kyle Bagwell & Michael Riordan, 1988. "High and Declining Prices Signal Product Quality," Discussion Papers 808, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  21. Insuk Cheong & Jeong-Yoo Kim, 2004. "Costly Information Disclosure in Oligopoly," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 121-132, 03.
  22. Cai, Hongbin & Riley, John & Ye, Lixin, 2007. "Reserve price signaling," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 253-268, July.
  23. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2004. "Competition and Confidentiality: Signaling Quality in a Duopoly when there is Universal Private Information," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0417, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  24. Michael J. Fishman & Kathleen M. Hagerty, 2003. "Mandatory Versus Voluntary Disclosure in Markets with Informed and Uninformed Customers," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 45-63, April.
  25. Oliver Board, 2009. "COMPETITION AND DISCLOSURE -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(1), pages 197-213, 03.
  26. Paul R. Milgrom & John Roberts, 1985. "Relying on the Information of Interested Parties," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 749, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  27. Mark N. Herzendorf & Per Baltzer Overgaard, 2001. "Prices as Signals of Quality in Duopoly," CIE Discussion Papers 2001-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics.
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