Second Degree Price Discrimination
This type of price discrimination involves businesses selling off packages of a product deemed
to be surplus capacity at lower prices than the previously published/advertised price.
Examples of this can often be found in the hotel and airline industries where spare rooms and
seats are sold on a last minute standby basis. In these types of industry, the fixed costs of
production are high. At the same time the marginal or variable costs are small and predictable.
If there are unsold airline tickets or hotel rooms, it is often in the businesses best interest to
offload any spare capacity at a discount prices, always providing that the cheaper price that
adds to revenue at least covers the marginal cost of each unit.
There is nearly always some supplementary profit to be made from this strategy. And, it can
also be an effective way of securing additional market share within an oligopoly as the main
suppliers’ battle for market dominance. Firms may be quite happy to accept a smaller profit
margin if it means that they manage to steal an advantage on their rival firms.
The expansion of e-commerce by both well established businesses and new entrants to online
retailing has seen a further growth in second degree price discrimination.
Early-bird discounts – extra cash-flow
The low cost airlines follow a different pricing strategy to the one outlined above. Customers
booking early with carriers such as EasyJet will normally find lower prices if they are prepared
to commit themselves to a flight by booking early. This gives the airline the advantage of
knowing how full their flights are likely to be and a source of cash-flow in the weeks and
months prior to the service being provided. Closer to the date and time of the scheduled service,
the price rises, on the simple justification that consumer’s demand for a flight becomes more
inelastic the nearer to the time of the service. People who book late often regard travel to their
intended destination as a necessity and they are therefore likely to be willing and able to pay a
much higher price very close to departure. Airlines call this price discrimination yield management – but despite the fancy name, at the
heart of this pricing strategy is the simple but important concept – price elasticity of demand!
The airlines have become masters at price discrimination as a means of maximizing revenue
from passengers traveling on the flight networks. Other transport businesses do the same!
Peak and Off-Peak Pricing
Peak and off-peak pricing and is common in the telecommunications industry, leisure retailing
and in the travel sector. Telephone and electricity companies separate markets by time: There are
three rates for telephone calls: a daytime peak rate, and an off peak evening rate and a cheaper
weekend rate. Electricity suppliers also offer cheaper off-peak electricity during the night.
At off-peak times, there is plenty of spare capacity an