DP10171 Shrouded Transaction Costs

Author(s): Hélène Bourguignon, Renato Gomes, Jean Tirole
Publication Date: October 2014
Keyword(s): card surcharges, cash discounts, hold-ups in two-sided markets, missed sales, payment cards
JEL(s): D83, L10, L41
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10171

The proliferation of new payment methods on the Internet rekindles the old and unsettled debate about merchants? incentive and ability to differentiate price according to payment choice. This paper develops an imperfect-information framework for the analysis of platform and social regulation of card surcharging and cash discounting. It makes three main contributions. First, it identifies the conditions under which concerns about missed sales induce merchants to perceive that they must take the card. Second, it derives a set of predictions about cash discounts, card surcharges and platform fees that match, and shed light on existing evidence. Finally, it shows that the optimal regulation of surcharging is related to public policy toward merchant fees and substantially differs from current practice.