Essays on Information, Competition, and Pricing Dynamics in the Retail Gasoline Market
Hong, Woo Hyung
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This dissertation studies the role of information in market performance, and pricing dynamics observed in the retail gasoline market. In Chapter 1, we empirically test whether smartphones, as information-providing devices, can improve market performance and reduce price dispersion. We treat the introduction of smartphones in the Korean gasoline market as a natural experiment to investigate the impact of smartphones on competition among gas stations. Smartphones provided consumers with direct access to price information through OPINET, a government-sponsored Internet website. Our results indicate that the adoption of smartphones is associated with dramatic decreases in price dispersion and average price-cost margins, thereby creating consumer gains. Additionally, we found a sudden decline in entries and a slow increase in exits after the introduction of smartphones. Chapter 2 investigates how and why a link between market power and asymmetric pricing occurs. Exploiting unique island panel data from the Korean gasoline market, we propose geographical separation as a reliable measure of market power. Our findings confirm a positive correlation between market power and price-response asymmetry. We provide direct evidence of tacit collusion by investigating sticky pricing behaviors and suggest that the tacit collusion is the main channel through which market power influences asymmetric pricing. Additionally, we examine the effect of station heterogeneity on asymmetric pricing to provide further evidence of tacit collusion even in relatively competitive environments.
- Economics