Competitive behaviour-based price discrimination
Advances in information technologies have increasingly enabled firms to use consumers' past purchasing data to charge different prices to its own customers and to those customers that in some sense belong to the rival firm. At first glance this new form of price discrimination seems to be lucrative as it allows a firm to generate profitable incremental sales without damaging profits it can extract from its own customer base. However, as behaviour-based price discrimination gains popularity many interesting questions arise. Is it, really, in the best interest of firms to recognise customers with different past behaviour and to price discriminate accordingly? Or is it rather in their interest to avoid any possible learning and thereby price discrimination practices? Should consumers hide their true types, i.e., should they behave anonymously? Further, should government regulation restrict information collection and price discrimination practices? The study of these questions is the study of the profit and welfare effects of behaviourbased price discrimination. This is the central issue of this thesis. With that in mind, this thesis addresses three theoretical models. The first one is based on the hypothesis that the ability of firms to predict the preferences of individual customers for the purpose of price discrimination is less than perfect but is constantly improving due to advances in information technologies. Here the main goal will be to investigate how profits, consumer surplus and welfare evolve as price discrimination is based on more accurate information. The second model is a natural sequel of the former as it tries to model how firms might obtain a signal of a consumer's preferences. Whether or not a given consumer bought from the firm previously might be used as an accurate signal of a consumer's preferences. A key issue here will be to examine whether or not it is in the interest of firms to avoid learning and price discrimination and how can they attain that goal. Finally, the third model studies the interaction between purely informative advertising and price discrimination based on customers' past behaviour. As without advertising consumers are left out of the market, the welfare effects of price discrimination are guided by how will price discrimination affect each firm's advertising decisions in relation to the social optimal level of advertising.