Sticky Rebates: Target Rebates Induce Non-Rational Loyalty in Consumers
37 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2009 Last revised: 22 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 2013
Competition policy often relies on the assumption of a rational consumer, although other models may better account for people’s decision behavior. In three experiments, we investigate the influence of loyalty rebates on consumers based on the alternative Cumulative Prospect Theory (CPT), both theoretically and experimentally. CPT predicts that loyalty rebates could harm consumers by impeding rational switching from an incumbent to an outside option (e.g., a market entrant). In a repeated trading task, participants decided whether or not to enter a loyalty rebate scheme and to continue buying within that scheme. Meeting the condition triggering the rebate was uncertain. Loyalty rebates considerably reduced the likelihood that participants switched to a higher-payoff outside option later. We conclude that loyalty rebates may inflict substantial harm on consumers and may have an underestimated potential to foreclose consumer markets.
Keywords: biases, antitrust, rebates, prospect theory, consumer decision-making
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