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Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Social Sciences Seminar

Thursday, January 20, 2022
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Online Event
Contracting and vertical control by a dominant platform
Ellen Muir, PhD Candidate, Department of Economics, Stanford University,

Abstract: We study a platform that sells productive inputs (such as e-commerce and distribution services) to a fringe of producers in an upstream market, while also selling its own output in the corresponding downstream market. The platform faces a tradeoff: any output that it sells downstream increases competition with the fringe of producers and lowers the downstream price, which in turn reduces demand for the platform's productive inputs and decreases upstream revenue. Adopting a mechanism design approach, we characterize the optimal menu of contracts the platform offers in the upstream market. These contracts involve price discrimination in the form of nonlinear pricing and quantity discounts. If the platform is a monopoly in the upstream market, then we show that the tradeoff always resolves in favor of consumers and at the expense of producers. However, if the platform faces competition in the upstream market, then it has an incentive to undermine this competition by engaging in activities, such as "killer" acquisitions and exclusive dealing, that harm both consumers and producers.

Joint with Zi Yang Kang.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending this online seminar, please contact Barbara Estrada by email at [email protected].