WP-008: Hunt Allcott and Richard Sweeney, "Can Retailers Inform Consumers about Energy Costs? Evidence from a Field Experiment" (March 2015)
With a large nationwide retailer, we run a natural field experiment to measure the effects of energy use information disclosure, customer rebates, and sales agent incentives on demand for energy efficient durable goods. While a combination of large rebates plus sales incentives substantially increases market share, information and sales incentives alone each have zero statistical effect and explain at most a small fraction of the low baseline market share. Sales agents strategically comply only partially with the experiment, targeting information at more interested consumers but not discussing energy efficiency with the disinterested majority. These results suggest that at current prices in this context, seller-provided information is not a major barrier to energy efficiency investments. We theoretically and empirically explore the novel policy option of combining customer subsidies with government-provided sales incentives.