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Price Discrimination


Price Discrimination is an economic and pricing strategy where a company charges different prices for the same product or service to different consumers, not based on production costs, but on the consumer’s ability or willingness to pay. The objective of this strategy is to maximize profits by capturing what each segment of the market is willing to pay. The various types are first, second, and third-degree price discrimination, based on the level of market segmentation.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Price Discrimination” is: /praɪs dɪˌskrɪməˈneɪʃən/.

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Price Discrimination is a pricing strategy where similar goods or services are sold at different prices by the same provider in different markets or segments. It’s seen in industries such as airlines, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.</li><li>Three types of Price Discrimination exist, including first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. First-degree is when each customer is charged the maximum that they are willing to pay. Second-degree is based on the quantity purchased, and third-degree occurs when prices vary based on a customer’s segment or market.</li><li>While Price Discrimination can lead to higher profits for businesses, it can also cause consumer inequity. On the positive side, it can result in cost efficiencies, better market coverage, and potentially lower prices for some customers who might not have been able to afford a product or service at a uniform price.</li></ol>


Price Discrimination is an important concept in business and finance as it refers to the strategy used by companies to charge different prices to different customers for the same product or service. This is based on the idea that customers have different willingness and ability to pay. By applying price discrimination, businesses can maximize their profits by capturing more consumer surplus. It provides an opportunity to access different segments of the market, improves sales volume, allows for market penetration, and could even drive out competition. However, it also poses ethical considerations and can potentially lead to customer discontent if not handled correctly.


The main purpose of price discrimination is to capitalize on market diversity to maximize profits. Businesses understand that consumers in different locations, with different demands, or at different times are willing to pay different prices for the same product or service. Price discrimination allows businesses to convert consumer surplus into producer surplus, thereby extracting maximum willingness to pay from each consumer. Fine-tuning pricing strategy in this way can optimize revenue for different segments, allowing a company to make profit even from low-demand segments where it might ordinarily be challenging to compete. Price discrimination finds its use predominantly in sectors with significant market power or those where businesses can easily segregate markets based on certain consumer characteristics. Airlines are famous for practicing price discrimination: economy class tickets often have different prices, and the same seat may cost more or less depending on when you book and what deals you might qualify for. Similarly, manufacturers selling products internationally can adjust prices to account for differences in purchasing power. In essence, the application of price discrimination fosters a strategic approach to responding to consumer diversity and elasticity, and serves as a powerful revenue maximization tool.


1. Airlines: Airlines use price discrimination on a regular basis, charging different prices for the same seat class on a flight. Ticket prices often vary according to the timing of the flight, date of purchase, and level of demand. For example, a passenger booking a flight several months in advance likely pays less than a passenger booking closer to the flight date.2. Movie Theaters: Movie theaters often practice price discrimination by offering different prices for different groups of people. For example, a regular adult ticket will cost more than that for a child or a senior citizen. This is because the theater believes that these groups have different levels of demand or are less willing to pay regular prices.3. Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceutical companies have different prices for the same drug in different countries. Prices are typically higher in wealthier markets (like the United States or Europe) and lower in poorer markets (like developing countries). This is because people in wealthier markets are generally willing and able to pay more for the same product.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Price Discrimination?

Price Discrimination is a pricing strategy where similar goods or services are sold at different prices by the same seller in different markets or segments. This strategy is used to capture maximum consumer surplus, the economic measure of consumer benefits.

Are there different types of Price Discrimination?

Yes, there are three types of Price Discrimination:1. First Degree: Different prices for every customer, depending on their willingness to pay.2. Second Degree: Prices vary based on quantities bought or the time of use.3. Third Degree: Different prices for different geographic locations, customer segments, or markets.

Is Price Discrimination illegal?

It depends on the context and jurisdiction. In general, Price Discrimination is not illegal, unless it’s used to drive competitors out of the market or it’s based on race, religion, national origin, or gender.

Are there any ethical issues associated with Price Discrimination?

Yes, while some view price discrimination as a profitable business strategy, others see it as unethical because it could exploit vulnerable consumers or violate principles of fairness and equity.

Can Price Discrimination benefit consumers?

It can benefit some consumers, but this largely depends on the specific situation. For instance, airline companies often offer lower fares for advance purchase, which can benefit cost-sensitive travelers who plan in advance.

How is technology influencing Price Discrimination?

With the rise of digital platforms and Big Data, companies now have more information about their customers’ preferences and purchasing habits. This allows them to dynamically adjust prices and engage in personalized Price Discrimination, sometimes called ‘Dynamic Pricing’.

What business sectors commonly use Price Discrimination?

Industries such as airlines, hotels, entertainment, and retail commonly use Price Discrimination. These are businesses where cost differences can exist depending on the time of purchase, group rates, or demand fluctuations.

What strategies can consumers use to mitigate Price Discrimination?

Consumers can compare prices across different sellers before making a purchase, use anonymous browsing when searching for products online, or wait for promotional discounts, among other strategies.

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