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When talk is “free”: The effect of tariff structure on usage under two and three-part tariffs


Journal of Marketing Research



Authors / Editors

Ascarza E;Lambrecht A;Vilcassim N


Publication Year



In many service industries, firms introduce three-part tariffs to replace or complement existing two-part tariffs. In contrast with two-part tariffs, three-part tariffs offer allowances, or “free” units of the service. Behavioral research suggests that the attributes of a pricing plan may affect behavior beyond their direct cost implications. Evidence suggests that customers value free units above and beyond what might be expected from the change in their budget constraint. Nonlinear pricing research, however, has not considered such an effect. The authors examine a market in which three-part tariffs were introduced for the first time. They analyze tariff choice and usage behavior for customers who switch from two-part to three-part tariffs. The findings show that switchers significantly “overuse” in comparison with their prior two-part tariff usage. That is, they attain a level of consumption that cannot be explained by a shift in the budget constraint. The authors estimate a discrete/continuous model of tariff choice and usage that accounts for the valuation of free units. The results show that the majority of three-part-tariff users value minutes under a three-part tariff more than they do under a two-part tariff. The authors derive recommendations for how the provider can exploit these insights to further increase revenues.


pricing, nonlinear pricing, discrete/continuous choice model, three-part tariffs, uncertainty, learning, free products

Available on ECCH


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