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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Friebel, Guido / Mendola, Mariapia / Requate, Till / Tsui, Kevin / Wichardt, Philipp / Zulehner, Christine

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Incompatibility, Product Attributes and Consumer Welfare: Evidence from ATMs

Christopher R. Knittel1 / Victor Stango2

1University of California, Davis,

2Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 8, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.1731, January 2008

Publication History

Published Online:
2008-01-04

Abstract

Incompatibility in markets with network effects reduces consumers' ability to "mix and match" components offered by different sellers, but can also spur changes in product attributes that might benefit consumers. In this paper, we estimate the effects of incompatibility on consumers in a classic hardware/software market: ATM cards and machines. We find that ATM fees ceteris paribus reduce the network benefit from other banks' ATMs. However, a surge in ATM deployment accompanies the shift to surcharging. Even under conservative assumptions regarding how much of the surge is directly attributable to surcharging, greater deployment often completely offsets the harm from higher fees. The results suggest that policy discussions of incompatibility must consider not only its direct effect on consumers, but also its effect on product attributes.

Keywords: network effects; ATMs; incompatibility

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