Competitive Implications of Consumer Fairness Concerns
47 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2016 Last revised: 15 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 13, 2017
When consumers perceive that a firm’s price or markup is unfairly high, they become less willing to purchase that firm’s product. Hence, one might intuit that the existence of such fair-minded consumers would tend to induce firms to reduce their prices, lowering their profits and increasing the consumers’ surplus. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, our analysis reveals that having a segment of fair-minded consumers in the market has a non-monotonic effect on the firms’ profits. More specifically, if the fraction of consumers having fairness concerns is small, consumers’ fairness concerns can actually alleviate price competition, making firms better off and consumers worse off. Within that range, an increase in the fraction of fair-minded consumers can increase the firms’ profits and reduce the consumers’ surplus. But when the fraction of fair-minded consumers is sufficiently high, the firms will compete more aggressively, in which case consumers’ fairness concerns will benefit consumers and reduce the firms’ profits.
Keywords: Fairness, behavioral economics, pricing, competitive strategy, segmentation
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