Market Regulation of Voluntary Add-on Contracts

Recognition Program

Authors: Christian Michel

International Journal of Industrial Organization, Vol. 54, 239-268, August, 2017

This paper analyzes contract choices and the effectiveness of consumer protection policies when firms can offer voluntary add-on insurance for their products. We develop a model in which a base product can be sold together with a voluntary extended warranty contract that insures consumers against the risk of product breakdown. Some consumers do not pay attention to extended warranties before making base product choices, but overestimate the value of such warranties at the point of sale. Under retail competition, the consumers’ option to buy multiple base products can endogenously create a base price floor that may prevent firms from redistributing the full warranty profits via loss-leadership. Inducing competition in the warranty market weakly increases consumer welfare and weakly outperforms a minimum warranty standard, which can even reduce consumer surplus. The results are consistent with the effects of recent changes regarding extended warranty regulation by UK legislators.

This paper is acknowledged by the Barcelona GSE Research Recognition Program