Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

High Frequency Evidence on the Demand for Gasoline

Matthew S. Lewis and Frank A. Wolak  study High Frequency Evidence on the Demand for Gasoline.

ABSTRACT: Daily city-level expenditures and prices are used to estimate the price responsiveness of gasoline demand in the U.S. Using a frequency of purchase model that explicitly acknowledges the distinction between gasoline demand and gasoline expenditures, we consistently find the price elasticity of demand to be an order of magnitude larger than estimates from recent studies using more aggregated data.

 We demonstrate directly that higher levels of spatial and temporal aggregation generate increasingly inelastic demand estimates, and then perform a decomposition to examine the relative importance of several different sources of bias likely to arise in more aggregated studies.

August 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Innovations in Payments

Marc Rysman and Scott Schuh  identify New Innovations in Payments.

ABSTRACT: We discuss prospects for innovation in consumer payment instruments.  We discuss recent research into consumer payments and what can be learned about consumer behavior towards new payment options.  We consider three new innovations in payments:  mobile payments, faster payments and digital currencies.  For each, we describe prospects and impediments to adoption.

August 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Insurance and the High Prices of Pharmaceuticals

David Besanko, David Dranove, and Craig Garthwaite  analyze Insurance and the High Prices of Pharmaceuticals .

ABSTRACT: We present a model in which prospective patients are liquidity constrained, and thus health insurance allows patients access to treatments and services that they otherwise would have been unable to afford. Consistent with large expansions of insurance in the U.S. (e.g., the Affordable Care Act), we assume that policies expand the set of services that must be covered by insurance. We show that the profit-maximizing price for an innovative treatment is greater in the presence of health insurance than it would be for an uninsured population. We also show that consumer surplus is less than it would be if the innovation was not covered. These results show that even in the absence of moral hazard, there are channels through which insurance can negatively affect consumer welfare. Our model also provides an economic rationale for the claim that pharmaceutical firms set prices that exceed the value their products create. We empirically examine our model's predictions by studying the pricing of oncology drugs following the 2003 passage of Medicare Part D. Prior to 2003, drugs covered under Medicare Part B had higher prices than those that would eventually be covered under Part D. In general, the trends in pricing across these categories were similar. However, after 2003 there was a far greater increase in prices for products covered under Part D, and as result, products covered by both programs were sold at similar prices. In addition, these prices were quite high compared to the value created by the products---suggesting that the forced bundle of Part D might have allowed firms to capture more value than their products created.

August 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assessment of Post-merger Coordinated Effects: Characterization by Simulations

Marc Ivaldi and Vicente Lagos have an interesting paper on Assessment of Post-merger Coordinated Effects: Characterization by Simulations.

ABSTRACT:  This paper aims at evaluating the coordinated effects of horizontal mergers by simulating their impact on firms' critical discount factors. We consider a random coefficient model on the demand side and heterogeneous price-setting firms on the supply side. Results suggest that mergers strengthen the incentives to collude among merging parties, but weaken the incentives of non-merging parties, with the former effect being stronger. To assess the magnitudes of these effects, we introduce the concepts of Asymmetry in Payoffs and Change in Payoffs effects, which allow us to identify appropriate screening tools according to the relative pre-merger payoffs of merging parties.

August 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Screening for bid-rigging - does it work?

Imhof, David ; Karagok, Yavuz ; and Rutz, Samuel ask Screening for bid-rigging - does it work?

ABSTRACT: This paper proposes a method to detect bid-rigging by applying mutually reinforcing screens to a road construction procurement data set from Switzerland in which no prior information about collusion was available. The screening method is particularly suited to deal with the problem of partial collusion, i.e. collusion which does not involve all firms and/or all contracts in a specific data set, implying that many of the classical markers discussed in the corresponding literature will fail to identify bid-rigging. In addition to presenting a new screen for collusion, it is shown how benchmarks and the combination of different screens may be used to identify subsets of suspicious contracts and firms in a data set. The discussed screening method succeeds in isolating a group of “suspicious” firms exhibiting the characteristics of a local bid-rigging cartel operating with cover bids and a – more or less pronounced – bid rotation scheme. Based on these! findings the Swiss Competition Commission (ComCo) decided to open an investigation.

August 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How mergers affect innovation: Theory and evidence from the pharmaceutical industry

Haucap, Justus ; Stiebale, Joel explain How mergers affect innovation: Theory and evidence from the pharmaceutical industry.

ABSTRACT: This papers analyses how horizontal mergers affect innovation activities of the merged entity and its non-merging competitors. We develop an oligopoly model with heterogeneous firms to derive empirically testable implications. Our model predicts that a merger is more likely to be profitable in an innovation intensive industry. For a high degree of firm heterogeneity, a merger reduces innovation of both the merged entity and non-merging competitors in an industry with high R&D intensity. Using data on horizontal mergers among pharmaceutical firms in Europe, we find that our empirical results are consistent with many predictions of the theoretical model. Our main result is that after a merger, patenting and R&D of the merged entity and its non-merging rivals declines substantially. The effects are concentrated in markets with high innovation intensity and a high degree of firm heterogeneity. The results are robust towards alternative specifications,! using an instrumental variable strategy, and applying a propensity score matching estimator.

August 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 29, 2016

A risk governance approach to managing antitrust risks in the banking industry

Denise Scheld (University of Giessen); Johannes Paha (University of Giessen) and Nicolas Fandrey (Protiviti GmbH) offer A risk governance approach to managing antitrust risks in the banking industry.

ABSTRACT: Competition law compliance has become increasingly important in the banking industry as the number of infringements and the associated fines imposed by the European Commission are rising. This article shows that not only governments and regulators, but also shareholders and managers, should be interested in managing antitrust risks in banks in order to avoid competition law infringements. Therefore, this article sets out an approach to assessing the residual risk of antitrust non-compliance as well as the costs associated with such conduct, in order to be able to identify the required intensity of risk management activities. It also shows how antitrust risk management can be implemented in banks’ governance structures using the Three Lines of Defence model and the COSO ERM framework. As a result, it demonstrates how to integrate antitrust risk management activities into existing structures and processes, thus improving the efficiency and effectiveness o! f overall risk management, in particular antitrust risk management.

July 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Non-sequential search, competition and price dispersion in retail electricity

Gugler, Klaus ; Heim, Sven and Liebensteiner, Mario examine Non-sequential search, competition and price dispersion in retail electricity.

ABSTRACT: We investigate the impact of consumer search and competition on pricing strategies in Germany's electricity retail. We utilize a unique panel dataset on spatially varying search requests at major online price comparison websites to construct a direct measure of search intensity and combine this information with zip code level data on electricity tariffs between 2011 and 2014. The paper stands out by explaining price dispersion by differing pricing strategies of former incumbents and entrant firms, which are distinct in their attributable shares in informed versus uninformed consumers. Our empirical results suggest causal evidence for an inverted U-shape effect of consumer search intensity on price dispersion in a clearinghouse environment as in Stahl (1989). The dispersion is caused by opposite pricing strategies of incumbents and entrants, with incumbents initially increasing and entrants initially decreasing tariffs as a reaction to more consumer search! . We also find an inverted U-shape effect of competition on price dispersion, consistent with theoretical findings by Janssen and Moraga-González (2004). Again, the effect can be explained by opposing pricing strategies of incumbents and entrants.

July 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Substitution between Online and Offline Advertising: Evidence from the Carbonated Soft Drink Industry

He, Xi (University of Connecticut); Lopez, Rigoberto A. (University of Connecticut); Liu, Yizao (University of Connecticut) explore Substitution between Online and Offline Advertising: Evidence from the Carbonated Soft Drink Industry.

ABSTRACT: This paper uses data collected from hypothetical and non-hypothetical choice-based conjoint survey instruments to estimate willingness to pay for distance-based local food products. The survey was administered to three different groups of respondents: members of a consumer buying club with local and grass-fed market experience, a random sample of Maryland residents, and shoppers at a non-specialty suburban Maryland grocery store. We find that both the random sample of Maryland residents and the grocery store shoppers are willing to pay a premium for local products, but view local and grass-fed production as substitutes. Conversely, members of the consumer buying club are willing to pay significantly less for local than their counterparts, but do not conflate local with other premium attributes, such as grass-fed production.

July 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The "Veblen" Effect, Targeted Advertising and Consumer Welfare

Lynne Pepall and Joseph Reiff analyze The "Veblen" Effect, Targeted Advertising and Consumer Welfare.

ABSTRACT: The technology of advertising in the twenty-first century allows for better targeting of consumers and better identification of consumer subgroups in the population. This makes it easier for firms to create in their advertising a desire to belong to the group identified with a product. We explore this kind of advertising in a monopoly model. The firm has an incentive to target this kind of advertising to the most lucrative segment of a particular social grouping and while advertising does create value for the consumer, it leads to an outcome where less output is sold at a higher price in a narrower or more segmented market than in the standard monopoly model. As a result even though consumers value the identification effect they are worse off. This is because the firm uses advertising to exploit a form of price discrimination and appropriate more surplus.

July 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Online and Offine Prices Similar? Evidence from Large Multi-Channel Retailers

Alberto F. Cavallo asks Are Online and Offine Prices Similar? Evidence from Large Multi-Channel Retailers.

ABSTRACT: Online prices are increasingly being used for a variety of inflation measurement and research applications, yet little is know about their relation to prices collected offline, where most retail transactions take place. This paper presents the results of the first large-scale comparison of online and offline prices simultaneously collected from the websites and physical stores of 56 large multi-channel retailers in 10 countries. I find that price levels are identical about 72% of the time for the products sold in both locations, with significant heterogeneity across countries, sectors, and retailers. The similarity is highest in electronics and clothing and lowest for drugstores and office-supply retailers. There is no evidence of prices varying with the location of the ip address or persistent browsing habits. Price changes are un-synchronized but have similar frequencies and average sizes. These results have implications for National Statistical Offices! and researchers using online data, as well as those interested in the effect of the internet on retail prices in different countries and sectors.

July 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Empirical Evidence on Conditional Pricing Practices

Bogdan Genchev (Boston College) and Julie Holland Mortimer (Boston College) offer Empirical Evidence on Conditional Pricing Practices.

ABSTRACT: Conditional pricing practices allow the terms of sale between a producer and a downstream distributor to vary with the ability of the downstream firm to meet a set of conditions put forward by the producer. The conditions may require a downstream firm to accept minimum quantities or multiple products, to adhere to minimum market-share requirements, or even to deal exclusively with one producer. The form of payment from the producer to the downstream firm may take the form of a rebate, marketing support, or simply the willingness to supply inventory. The use of conditional pricing practices is widespread throughout many industries, and the variety of contractual forms used in these arrangements is nearly as extensive as the number of contracts.

July 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Strategic Choice of Network Externality

Yuanzhu Lu (China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China) and Sougata Poddar (Department of Economics, Faculty of Business and Law, Auckland University of Technology) explore Strategic Choice of Network Externality.

ABSTRACT: In many product markets, impact of network externality plays an important role to affect the overall quality of a product. However, the degree or the strength of network externality is assumed as a parameter in most of the literature. We propose a model of vertical product differentiation with two competing firms where the strength of network externality is endogenized as a strategic choice of the high quality firm. We show how the equilibrium market structure and market coverage depend on the cost of choosing the network strength and on the relative quality difference of the competing products. We also show that the relationship between the optimal level of network externalities and the relative quality differences of the products can be monotonic or non-monotonic.

July 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Collusion with a Greedy Center in Position Auctions

Emmanuel LORENZON studies Collusion with a Greedy Center in Position Auctions.

ABSTRACT: In this paper we aim at studying the sensitivity of the Generalized Second-Price auction to bidder collusion when monetary transfers are allowed. We propose a model of position auction that incorporates third-parties as agents facilitating collusion in complete information. We show that the first-best collusive outcome can be achieved under any Nash condition. Under the locally envy-free criterion, we find that if the collusive gain is uniformly redistributed among members, the best that can be achieved is Vickrey-Clarkes-Groves outcome. Bidders do not have sufficient incentives to reduce even more their expressed demand. We then provide elements upon which an incentive compatible fee can be set by the center. We provide conditions under which bidders can enhance efficient collusion. Doing so we also contribute to the literature on collusion in multiple-objects simultaneous auctions.

July 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gasoline Price Wars: Spatial Dependence Awakens

Eleftheriou, Konstantinos and Polemis, Michael explore Gasoline Price Wars: Spatial Dependence Awakens.

ABSTRACT: We build an Asymmetric Spatial Error Correction Model (ASpECM) to investigate the role of spatial dependence at the retail gasoline price adjustment mechanism. We find evidence that the symmetric price pattern is fully reversed when we account for spatial spillover effects, indicating that retail prices adjust more rapidly in an upward than a downward direction. This finding raises the possibility that retailers are more likely to engage in anti-competitive practices which may be ignored when the regulators bypass the role of spatial dependence.

July 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rent sharing to control non-cartel supply in the German cement market

Harrington, Joseph E. ; Hüschelrath, Kai ; and Laitenberger, Ulrich examine Rent sharing to control non-cartel supply in the German cement market.

ABSTRACT: A challenge for many cartels is avoiding a destabilizing increase in non-cartel supply in response to having raised price. In the case of the German cement cartel that operated over 1991-2002, the primary source of non-cartel supply was imports from Eastern European cement manufacturers. Industry sources have claimed that the cartel sought to control imports by sharing rents with intermediaries in order to discourage them from sourcing foreign supply. Specifically, cartel members would allow an intermediary to issue the invoice for a transaction and charge a fee even though the output went directly from the cartel member's plant to the customer. We investigate this claim by first developing a theory of collusive pricing that takes account of the option of bribing intermediaries. The theory predicts that the cement cartel members are more likely to share rents with an intermediary when the nearest Eastern European plant is closer and there is more Eastern ! European capacity outside of the control of the cartel. Estimating a logit model that predicts when a cartel member sells through an intermediary, the empirical analysis supports both predictions.

July 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Threat of entry and debt maturity: evidence from airlines

Gianpaolo Parise identifies Threat of entry and debt maturity: evidence from airlines.

ABSTRACT: I explore the effect of the threat posed by low-cost competitors on debt structure in the airline industry. I use the route network expansion of low-cost airlines to identify routes where the probability of future entry increases dramatically. I find that when strategic routes are threatened, incumbents significantly increase debt maturity before entry occurs. Overall, the main findings suggest that airlines respond to entry threats trading off financial flexibility for lower rollover risk. The results are consistent with models in which firms set their optimal debt structure in the presence of costly rollover failure.

July 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reconciling the Firm Size and Innovation Puzzle

Anne Marie Knott and Carl Vieregger are Reconciling the Firm Size and Innovation Puzzle.

ABSTRACT: Since Schumpeter, there has been a long-standing debate regarding the optimal firm size for innovation. Empirical results have settled into a puzzle: R&D spending increasing with scale while R&D productivity decreases with scale. Thus large firms appear irrational. We propose the puzzle stems from the fact that product and patent counts undercount large firm innovation. To test that proposition we use recently available NSF BRDIS survey data of firms R&D practices as well as a broader measure of R&D productivity. Using the broader measure, we find that both R&D spending and R&D productivity increase with scale—thus resolving the puzzle. We further find that while large firms and small firms differ in the types of R&D they conduct, there is no type whose returns decrease in scale—there are merely types for which the small firm penalty is less severe.

July 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Price-Setting Behavior in Brazil: survey evidence

Arnildo da Silva Correa ; Myrian Beatriz S. Petrassi ; and Rafael Santos have posted Price-Setting Behavior in Brazil: survey evidence.

ABSTRACT: Price surveys became popular after the seminal work of Blinder (1991) exploring the price-setting practices of the US firms, which filled some blanks left by the simple observation of prices charged by firms. The present paper reports the findings of a survey conducted by the Central Bank of Brazil with local firms. The sample covered 7,002 firms, the entire country and 3 economic sectors: manufacturing, services and commerce. The collected answers suggest important features about price-setting behavior in Brazil, such as: (i) the cost of reviewing price are low, but there is important nominal rigidity – firms report that change prices 3.6 times per year –, (ii) state-dependent rules seem to be more frequent than time-dependent behavior, (iii) markup pricing appears to be the dominant strategy, and (iv) the two most important factors driving price changes are the cost of intermediate goods and the inflation rate. A complete description of the results ! is found throughout the paper and summarized in the final section. The paper also discusses some policy implications from the results

July 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Empirical Tools and Competition Analysis: Past Progress and Current Problems

Ariel Pakes (Harvard) describes Empirical Tools and Competition Analysis: Past Progress and Current Problems.

ABSTRACT: I review a subset of the empirical tools available for competition analysis. The tools discussed are those needed for the empirical analysis of; demand, production efficiency, product repositioning, and the evolution of market structure. Where relevant I start with a brief review of tools developed in the 1990’s that have recently been incorporated into the analysis of actual policy. The focus is on providing an overview of new developments; both those that are easy to implement, and those that are not quite at that stage yet show promise.

July 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)