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Spurious Complexity and Common Standards in Markets for Consumer Goods

Gaudeul, Alexia and Sugden, Robert (2007): Spurious Complexity and Common Standards in Markets for Consumer Goods.

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Abstract

Behavioural and industrial economists have argued that, because of cognitive limitations, consumers are liable to make sub-optimal choices in complex decision problems. Firms can exploit these limitations by introducing spurious complexity into tariff structures, weakening price competition. This paper models a countervailing force. Consumers' choice problems are simplified if competing firms follow common conventions about tariff structures. Because such a 'common standard' promotes price competition, a firm's use of it signals that its products offer value for money. If consumers recognize this effect, there can be a stable equilibrium in which firms use common standards and set competitive prices.

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