Default vs. Active Choices: An Experiment on Electricity Tariff Switching
FCN Working Paper No. 7/2020
31 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2020
Date Written: May 1, 2020
In distinct decision environments,consumers often fail to financially optimize their decisions. In liberalized electricity markets, consumers frequently do not optimize their electricity choices and stick with the default providers instead, despite the ability to choose among an increasingly large set of electricity suppliers and benefit from lower cost options. In this paper, we study the effect of different contextual features of the choice environment (i.e., default and active choice enforcement) and search costs (i.e., high and low) on the quality of electricity contract choices, with the help of a randomized controlled laboratory experiment. We provide evidence that the default contract rule lowers the decision quality compared to the active decision rule in both search cost environments. Default rules lower the quality of contract choices especially for the individuals with lower cognitive ability. Contrary to the expectations, we observe that the number of alternatives has no effect on the quality of electricity contract choices. Our findings have important implications for regulatory rule setting in the electricity market.
Keywords: Contract Switching, Electricity Contracts, Default Rules, Search Costs, Decisionmaking
JEL Classification: C91, D91, D12, Q48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation