NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Market Structure, Reputation, and the Value of Quality Certification

Daniel Elfenbein, Raymond Fisman, Brian McManus

NBER Working Paper No. 20074
Issued in April 2014
NBER Program(s):   IO

Quality certification programs help consumers to identify high-quality products or sellers in markets with information asymmetries. Using data from eBay UK’s online marketplace, we study how certification’s impact on consumer demand varies with market- and seller-level attributes, exploiting quasi-experimental variation in sellers’ certification status. The positive effects of eBay’s “top rated seller” certification are stronger for categories with relatively few other certified sellers, in more competitive markets, and for sellers with shorter records of past performance. These findings indicate certification provides its greatest value when certification is rare, the product space is crowded, and for sellers lacking established reputations.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20074

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