An Empirical Analysis of Minimum Advertised Price Restrictions
36 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2019
Date Written: September 30, 2019
Recent theory has examined the competitive effects of minimum advertised price (MAP) restrictions: manufacturer policies that can limit the ability of consumers to search for product prices. In this paper, we empirically study the effect of a major electronics manufacturer’s MAP policy on the e-retail prices for its hardware products. Our approach leverages three types of data: contractual MAP values by product from 2011-2013; daily prices across its largest e-retailers; and the frequency of visits to each e-retailer from a representative household panel. We use a model of search with advertised prices to guide two types of findings. First, descriptive patterns of retailer prices are consistent with the market exhibiting consumer search costs, whereby it is costlier to search when price is below MAP than above MAP. Second, reduced form models imply that MAP diminishes the effect of increased retailer competition on decreased price dispersion, whereby prices are up to 6% more dispersed with MAP than without MAP. This is consistent with a model of inter-retailer price discrimination.
Keywords: search cost; vertical restraint; advertised price; resale price maintenance; RPM; electronic retail
JEL Classification: L41, L81, D83
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