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Reference Points, Social Norms, and Fairness in Contract Renegotiations

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  • Bartling, Björn
  • Schmidt, Klaus

Abstract

Do contracts provide reference points that affect ex post behavior? We address this question in a canonical buyer-seller relationship with renegotiation. Our paper provides causal experimental evidence that an initial contract has a highly significant and economically important impact on renegotiation behavior that goes beyond the effect of contracts on bargaining threatpoints. We compare situations in which an initial contract is renegotiated to strategically equivalent bargaining situations in which no ex ante contract was written. The ex ante contract causes sellers to ask for markups that are 45 percent lower than in strategically equivalent bargaining situations without an initial contract. Moreover, buyers are more likely to reject given markups in renegotiations than in negotiations. We do not find that these effects are stronger when the initial contract is concluded under competitive rather than monopolistic conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartling, Björn & Schmidt, Klaus, 2013. "Reference Points, Social Norms, and Fairness in Contract Renegotiations," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79809, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:79809
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    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/79809/1/VfS_2013_pid_899.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 1-48.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points � experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Contracts as Reference Points--Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 493-525, April.
    4. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2011. "Can contracts solve the hold-up problem? Experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 186-199, September.
    5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bartling Björn & Grieder Manuel & Zehnder Christian, 2014. "Does competition justify inequality?," ECON - Working Papers 158, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Nov 2015.
    2. Björn Bartling & Manuel Grieder & Christian Zehnder, 2014. "Let the Market Decide: An Experimental Study of Competition and Fairness," CESifo Working Paper Series 4831, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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