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Can Bundled Discounting Increase Consumer Prices Without Excluding Rivals? A Comment on 'Tying, Bundled Discounts, and the Death of the Single Monopoly Profit' by Einer Elhauge


Daniel A. Crane


University of Michigan Law School

Joshua D. Wright


Federal Trade Commission; George Mason University School of Law

2009

Competition Policy International, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 209-220, Autumn 2009
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 10-29
U of Michigan Law & Econ, Empirical Legal Studies Center Paper No. 10-016
U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 212

Abstract:     
Since we abhor suspense, we will quickly answer the question our title poses: No. As a general matter, bundled discounting schemes lower prices to consumers unless they are predatory - that is to say, unless they exclude rivals and thereby permit the bundled discounter to price free of competitive restraint. Professor Elhauge argues that bundled discounting can have “power effects” identical to conventional tying arrangements irrespective of any exclusionary effect on rivals as well as that cost/revenue tests for bundled discounting perversely immunize the worst bundled discounting schemes - those that represent the highest non-exclusionary price increases to consumers.

We disagree with Professor Elhauge on these propositions, as we do on many of the earlier arguments in his draft. For the purposes of this symposium, we tackle only the last of these propositions. In brief, we argue that Elhauge’s “power effects” thesis as to bundled discounts rests on a faulty premise - that the monopolist is free to threaten an unlimited price on the monopoly item in the bundle and, consequently, can charge a higher price for the bundle than it could for sales of the goods individually. To the contrary, since a rational monopolist will already have charged the profit-maximizing monopoly price on the monopoly item, its threat to charge a higher price unless the customer accedes to a bundled discount demand is hollow. Execution of such a threat would harm the monopolist, and harm it considerably more than the opposite predatory strategy of cutting prices.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: Anti-Competitive, Antitrust, Consumer Welfare, Collective Action, Customers, Demand Elasticity, Efficiency, Exclusive Shelf-Space Contracts, Frank Easterbrook, Gpos, Goodwill, Herbert Hovenkamp, Market Share, Pbms, Philip Areeda, Predatory Pricing, Price Discrimination, Robinson-Patman Act, Tie-Ins

JEL Classification: D40, D42, D45, K21, L41

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Date posted: June 30, 2010 ; Last revised: September 15, 2010

Suggested Citation

Crane, Daniel A. and Wright, Joshua D., Can Bundled Discounting Increase Consumer Prices Without Excluding Rivals? A Comment on 'Tying, Bundled Discounts, and the Death of the Single Monopoly Profit' by Einer Elhauge (2009). Competition Policy International, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 209-220, Autumn 2009; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 10-29; U of Michigan Law & Econ, Empirical Legal Studies Center Paper No. 10-016; U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 212. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1632968

Contact Information

Daniel A. Crane
University of Michigan Law School ( email )
625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-615-2622 (Phone)
Joshua D. Wright (Contact Author)
Federal Trade Commission ( email )
601 New Jersey Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580
United States
George Mason University School of Law ( email )
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
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