"Pricing Technologies and their Economic and Social Consequences"

MWP Multidisciplinary research workshop (PriTech 2021)

Economics, Law, Sociology and History of Algorithmic/Dynamic Pricing, ESLs and other pricing technologies, as well as their impact on society


(All times CET)


PDF version is here

Please find the abstracts, links to drafts, and all other materials in the online version below.

  • Thursday, 25 March 2021 | 9:45-18:00 CET

  • 9.45 - 10.00

    Introduction and welcome

  • 10.00 – 11.30

    Panel 1: Competition and Regulation

    The first panel covers some of the legal and economic challenges raised by algorithmic pricing for competition policy and regulation, including algorithmic collusion and the use of AI in arbitration disputes. (Moderator: Francesco Ducci, MWF, LAW)

    Rob Nicholls | University of New South Wales

    “When the Price is Right: AI in Final Offer Arbitration“

    In The European Union, the US and Australia, there are different approaches being taken to address relative bargaining power in the curation and creation of news. On the one side, news content is curated by the large platform businesses Google and Facebook. On the other side, news is created by news media businesses that have historically sold their own advertising cross-subsidise news creation. News curators and creators have a symbiotic relationship where each relies on the other to both create and transfer value. In the EU, the net of that value is a matter of copyright law. In Australia, it is a matter of competition law. This presentation examines the way that Australian law has used the approach of "final offer arbitration" to elicit price offers in an environment where the opening offers from the platforms were zero and the opening asks from the news media businesses were more than $A1 billion. It reviews where the commercial outcomes occurred and examines whether the mediate/arbitrate process adopted could be automated given the structure adopted. In particular, as final offer arbitration merely requires a binary decision, the presentation demonstrates the intractability of such a binary decision to an artificial intelligence application.

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    Giacomo Calzolari | European University Institute

    “Protecting consumers from collusive prices due to AI“

    Relevant paper: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/370/6520/1040/tab-article-info

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    Michal Gal | University of Haifa

    “Algorithms as Illegal Agreements and Algorithmic Consumers“

    Relevant papers:

    • Gal, Michal and Elkin-Koren, Niva, Algorithmic Consumers (August 8, 2016). Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 30, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2876201
    • Gal, Michal, Algorithms as Illegal Agreements (May 2, 2018). Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3171977
  • 13.45 – 15.15

    Panel 2: Platform Design and Pricing

    The focus of the panel is on the problems where platforms are explicitly modelled and either the platform's profit, associated market dynamics, the policy response, or the effect on welfare are of crucial importance. (Moderator: Arthur Dolgopolov, MWF, ECO)

    Matthijs Wildenbeest | Indiana University

    “Agency Pricing and Bargaining: Empirical Evidence from the e-Book Market”

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    Heinrich Nax | ETH Zurich & University of Zurich

    “Information, Feedback and Pricing Rule Effects in the Continuous Double Auction: an Experimental Perspective”

    Relevant paper: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3131004

    Justin Johnson | Cornell University

    “Platform Design when Sellers Use Pricing Algorithms”

    Relevant paper: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3691621

     Watch the recording

  • 15.30 – 16.45

    Panel 3: Algorithmic Pricing

    The panel covers the broad topic of algorithmization of prices without the focus on algorithmic collusion. These include surge pricing in ride-sharing, online shopping, learning algorithms, and outsourcing. (Moderator: Arthur Dolgopolov, MWF, ECO)

    Brendan Lucier | Microsoft Research

    “Pricing for Complex Buyers with Auctions and Bidding Agents”

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    Joseph Harrington | University of Pennsylvania

    “Outsourcing Pricing Algorithms and Market Competition”

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  • 17.00 – 18.00

    Hal Varian

    Hal Varian | Google

    “Ad Costs and Product Prices”

    (Moderator: Arthur Dolgopolov, MWF, ECO)

  • 18.00

    End of first day of workshop

  • Friday, 26 March 2021 │ 10:00-18:30 CET

  • 10.00 – 11.30

    Panel 4: Price Discrimination and Behavioural and Psychographic Targeting

    The panel explores the use of software agents to price discriminate and target consumers with personalised communications – social perceptions of such practices, their impact on markets and society and the applicable legal frameworks. (Moderator: Agnieszka Jabłonowska, MWF, LAW)

    Andreas Leibbrandt | Monash University

    “Behavioral constraints on price discrimination: Experimental evidence on pricing and customer antagonism”

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    Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius | Radboud University

    “Online price discrimination and non-discrimination law”

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    Natali Helberger | University of Amsterdam

    “Profiling, consumer vulnerability and unfair commercial practices”

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  • 14.00 – 15.30

    Panel 5: Pricing and Society: Sociological and Historical Approaches

    The panel brings together researchers studying how pricing and other market technologies contribute to distributive outcomes, the socio-cultural consequences of markets, as well as various processes of social discrimination, in historical perspective. (Moderator: Giacomo Tagiuri, MWF, LAW)

    Franck Cochoy | University of Toulouse

    “On the Digitalization of Prices: A Century of Price Display Practices and Technologies (1922–present)”


    Joseph Turow | University of Pennsylvania

    “Profiling Customers to Assess Their Value: Where is the Red Line?”

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    Relevant book: The Voice Catchers (Forthcoming, 2021), https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300248036/voice-catchers, book description

    Tamar Kricheli-Katz | Tel-Aviv University

    “The Gender Price Gap”

    Abstract: Using data from eBay we show that women receive lower prices than men when selling the exact same products. we further explore why this gender gap obtains and why some products have larger gender price gaps than others. To answer these questions, we exploit the variation in the gender price gap across products found in the earlier eBay data together with new survey data on the perceptions people have about seemingly male-typed and female-typed products and about people’s uncertainty about the prices of products.

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  • 16.00 – 17.30

    Panel 6: Dynamic Pricing and Learning

    The panel explores all aspects of dynamic price change - from Electronic Shelf Labels and the costs associated with rapid price adjustments to the convergence of reinforcement learning pricing algorithms to collusive outcomes and industrial applications of multidimensional pricing models. (Moderators: Arthur Dolgolopov, MWF, ECO & Francesco Ducci, MWF, LAW)

    Marian Moszoro | George Mason University & SGH Warsaw School of Economics

    Brad Kells | Cargo Chief, Lead Data Scientist

    “Pricing Algorithms in the Truck Industry with Multi-dimensional but Limited Data”

    Arnoud den Boer | University of Amsterdam

    “Tacit Collusion by Data-Driven Price Algorithms”

    Abstract: Can price algorithms learn to collude instead of compete against each other, potentially leading to higher consumer prices and lower social welfare? The question is controversial among economists and competition policy regulators. One the one hand, concerns have been expressed that self-learning price algorithms do not only make it easier to form price cartels, but also that this can be achieved within the boundaries of current antitrust legislation – raising the question whether the existing competition law needs to be adjusted to mitigate undesired algorithmic collusion. On the other hand, a number of economists believe that algorithms learning to collude is science fiction, except by using forms of signaling or communication that are already illegal, and argue that there is no need to change antitrust laws. Motivated by this discussion, I will present recent work on learning supra-competitive prices.

    Relevant paper: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3741385

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    Emilio Calvano | University of Bologna

    “Artificial Intelligence, algorithmic pricing and collusion”

  • 17.45 – 18.20

    Oren Bar-Gill

    Oren Bar-Gill | Harvard University

    “Algorithmic Price Discrimination: When Demand is a Function of Both Preferences and (Mis)perceptions”

    (Moderator: Agnieszka Jabłonowska, MWF, LAW)

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  • 18.20 – 18.30

    Closing remarks and end of workshop

  • Pre-Recorded talks

  • Pre-recorded

    Christo Wilson

    Christo Wilson | Northeastern University

    “Auditing the Amazon Buy Box”

    (Moderator: Arthur Dolgopolov, MWF, ECO)

    Abstract: In this study, we collected data from Amazon Marketplace to study two things: (1) dynamic pricing by merchants, and (2) the behavior of Amazon's Buy Box algorithm. These two systems are intertwined because the Buy Box algorithm determines which merchant will make a sale when a customer clicks the Buy Now button, so there is a strong incentive for merchants not just to compete with each other, but also to tailor their behavior to favor selection by the Buy Box. I will present our observations about the behavior of the Buy Box algorithm and merchants engaged in dynamic pricing, and conclude with thoughts about the design of Amazon's Marketplace.

    Relevant paper: https://cbw.sh/static/pdf/amazon-www16.pdf

     Watch the recording