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Selling to Overconfident Consumers

Nov 2006
Working Paper
06-018
By  Michael Grubb
Consumers may overestimate the precision of their demand forecasts. This overconfidence creates an incentive for both monopolists and competitive firms to offer tariffs with included quantities at zero marginal cost, followed by steep marginal charges. This matches observed cellphone service pricing plans in the US and elsewhere. An alternative explanation with common priors can be ruled out in favor of overconfidence based on observed customer usage patterns for a major US cellular phone service provider. The model can be reinterpreted to explain the use of flat rates and late fees in rental markets, and teaser rates on loans. Nevertheless, firms may benefit from consumers losing their overconfidence.