Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Consumer Loss Aversion, Product Experimentation and Implicit Collusion

Salvatore Piccolo (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milano), and CSEF) and Aldo Pignataro (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milano)) identify Consumer Loss Aversion, Product Experimentation and Implicit Collusion.

ABSTRACT: Two firms supplying experience goods compete to attract loss averse consumers that are uncertain about how well these goods fit their needs. To resolve valuation uncertainty, firms can allow perspective customers to test (experiment) their products before purchase. We investigate firms' dynamic incentives to allow experimentation and analyze the resulting effects on the profitability and the stability of horizontal price fixing. The analysis shows that, depending on the regulatory regime in place | i.e., whether experimentation is forbidden, mandated or simply allowed but not imposed (laissez-faire) | the degree of consumer loss aversion has ambiguous effects both on the profits that firms can achieve through implicit collusion and on the extent to which these agreements can be sustained. Moreover, we also show that while in static environments consumer welfare is always maximized by a policy that forbids experimentation, the opposite might happen in a dynamic environment.

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