Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2024

Status

Working

Abstract

Consumer law aims to empower consumers with accurate information and to protect them from misinformation. For complex goods and services, however, mandated disclosure laws and other consumer law tools have had only limited success in helping consumers project their satisfaction and costs. Market responses, such as ratings, have limitations that have prevented them from compensating adequately for consumer law’s shortcomings. This Article describes how regulators could improve measurements of quality and cost by borrowing a tool from drug law: randomization. In designated markets, consumers who accept an incentive to volunteer would be randomized among two or more choices, and the government would collect short- and long-term information about each consumer’s experience. For example, in the health insurance market, by providing discounts to consumers who select two or more possible insurers, the government could accomplish the goal of comparing insurers’ health outcomes, free from the current confounding concern that different health insurers serve different pools of insureds. Randomization similarly could help overcome informational problems and abusive conduct in highly regulated markets for health providers, educational institutions, and lawyers, as well as for more ordinary goods and services, such as automobile repair. The information generated through randomization not only could be of direct use to consumers, but also could serve as an input into additional regulation, allowing the government to make more informed decisions about mandating product features where data establishes that producers exploit systematic errors by consumers.

GW Paper Series

2024-32

Included in

Law Commons

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