Reputation Failure: Market Discipline and Its Limits

65 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2018 Last revised: 14 Dec 2018

See all articles by Yonathan A. Arbel

Yonathan A. Arbel

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: August 28, 2018


Reputation failure is a systematic problem with the reliability of consumer-based reputational information. When choosing to rate, review, gossip, or otherwise share information about their experiences with goods and services, individuals are mostly guided by private—rather than public-serving—reasons. Consequently, as the Article demonstrates, the resulting body of reputational information is beset by participation, selection, and social desirability biases, making reputation filtered, biased, and distorted.
The growth of the sharing-economy, alongside classic work in political economy, sociology, and law & economics, has instilled a false sense that reputational information can solve coordination and trust problems in markets without legal intervention. As a result, there is growing pressure to deregulate markets and recede protections in diverse fields such as contracts, products liability, and occupational licensing. By documenting the existence of reputation failure, the Article articulates a new justification for state action in these areas. More generally, the Article argues that fixing reputation failures should be a high-priority program for lawmakers in the 21st century and a central mission of consumer protection and related agencies.

Keywords: Market Discipline, Reputation, Contracts, Torts, Consumer Protection, Game Theory, Monte Carlo, Law and Economics

JEL Classification: L14, K12, K13, D11, D40, D62, D83, D64, K20

Suggested Citation

Arbel, Yonathan A., Reputation Failure: Market Discipline and Its Limits (August 28, 2018). U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3239995. Available at SSRN: or

Yonathan A. Arbel (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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