Collective Consuming: Consumers as Subcontractors on Electronic Markets

W.A. Dolfsma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this essay, contrary to popular belief, it is argued on the basis of transaction cost economics that consumers will become dependent subcontractors in electronic markets. Consumers invest time and effort building up a relationship with a producer, (r)e-tailer, or intermediary—an investment that is idiosyncratic. The intermediary only needs to invest in generic assets that enable him or her to automate the process of collecting and processing customer information needed to differentiate products and discriminate prices. As subcontractors, consumers face high switching costs and are thus dependent on intermediaries. Virtual communities of consumers that organize countervailing power will not mitigate this tendency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-183
JournalInformation Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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