Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Survey on the Economics of Behaviour-Based Price Discrimination

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

Rosa Branca Esteves (University of Minho, Portugal - Economics) provides A Survey on the Economics of Behaviour-Based Price Discrimination.

ABSTRACT: Economists have long been interested in understanding the profit, consumer surplus and welfare effects of an ancient marketing strategy: Price Discrimination. While it is not new that firms try frequently to segment customers in order to price discriminate, what has dramatically changed, with recent advances in information technologies, is the quality of consumer-specific data now available in many markets and how this information has been used by firms for price discrimination purposes. Specifically, thanks to information technology it is nowadays increasingly feasible for sellers to segment customers on the basis of their purchasing histories and to price discriminate accordingly. This form of price discrimination has been named in the literature as Behaviour-Based Price Discrimination (BBPD). For a long time economists have been concerned in understanding the economic effects of price discrimination in monopolistic markets. However, because imperfect competition is undoubtedly the most common economic setting, recent research on the field has been concerned with the following issues. Firstly, how are profit, consumer surplus and welfare affected when firms practice some form of price discrimination in imperfectly competitive markets? Secondly, in which circumstances may competitive firms have an incentive to price discriminate or rather to avoid it? As we will see, conclusions regarding the profit and welfare effects of price discrimination are strongly dependent upon the form of price discrimination, which in turn depends upon the form of consumer heterogeneity and the different instruments available for price discrimination. Basically, the aim of this survey is to clarify the two aforementioned issues in imperfectly competitive markets.

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