Does the Consumer Have an Obligation to Cooperate With Price Discrimination?

Business Ethics Quarterly 14 (2):263-274 (2004)
Price discrimination is widespread in the American economy and sometimes can be defended as achieving socially preferable economic outcomes. However, the separation of markets required for price discrimination is often difficult to sustain. Sometimes those whom the seller wishes to charge higher prices are identified by imprecise markers. (Thus, as one example, airlines have traditionally attempted to identify business travelers willing to pay higher fares as those travelers unwilling to stay at their destination over a Saturday night.) Imprecise targeting complicates efforts to prevent strategies of circumvention and sellers sometimes resort to claiming that buyers are morally bound to observe rules which sellers cannot otherwise enforce. This paper examines whether buyers can be morally bound by sellers to put themselves into discriminated-against classes.This paper takes the position that if, as often seems to be the case, there is a social consensus that consumers would not be morallyobliged to sort themselves into categories precisely designed to achieve the goals of price discrimination, then there is, a fortiori,a social consensus that consumers are not morally obliged to sort themselves into categories which are only crudely designed toachieve the goals of price discrimination, and which may in fact be counterproductive
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