Regulating Powerful Platforms: Evidence from Commission Fee Caps

Information Systems Research, Forthcoming

37 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2023 Last revised: 26 Jan 2024

See all articles by Zhuoxin Li

Zhuoxin Li

University of Wisconsin-Madison - Wisconsin School of Business

Gang Wang

University of Delaware

Date Written: June 22, 2021

Abstract

Platform giants typically possess strong power over other participants on the platforms. Such power asymmetry gives platform owners the edge on setting platform fees to capture the surplus created on their platforms. While there is a heated debate on regulating these powerful platforms, the lack of empirical studies hinders the progress towards evidence-based policymaking. This research empirically investigates this regulatory issue in the context of on-demand delivery. Delivery platforms (e.g., DoorDash) charge restaurants a commission fee, which can be as high as 30% per order. To support small businesses, recent regulatory scrutiny has started to cap the commission fees for independent restaurants. This research empirically evaluates the effectiveness of platform fee regulation, by investigating recent regulations across 14 cities and states in the United States. Our analyses show that independent restaurants in regulated cities (i.e., those paying reduced commission fees) experience a decline in orders and revenue, whereas chain restaurants (i.e., those paying the original fees) see an increase in orders and revenue. This intriguing finding suggests that chain restaurants, not independent restaurants, benefit from the regulations that were intended to support independent restaurants. We find that platforms’ discriminative responses to the regulation may explain the negative effects on independent restaurants. That is, after cities enact commission fee caps, delivery platforms become less likely to recommend independent restaurants to consumers, and instead turn to promote chain restaurants. Moreover, delivery platforms increase their delivery fees for consumers in regulated cities, suggesting that these platforms attempt to cover the loss of commission revenue by charging customers more.

Keywords: powerful platforms, multi-sided platforms, regulation, on-demand services, food delivery, restaurants

Suggested Citation

Li, Zhuoxin and Wang, Gang, Regulating Powerful Platforms: Evidence from Commission Fee Caps (June 22, 2021). Information Systems Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3871514 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3871514

Zhuoxin Li (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison - Wisconsin School of Business ( email )

Gang Wang

University of Delaware ( email )

Newark, DE 19711
United States

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