Kurt R. Brekke, Robert Nuscheler and Odd Rune Straume

In a model of spatial competition, we analyze the equilibrium outcomes in markets where the product price is exogenous. Using an extended version of the Hotelling model, we assume that firms choose their locations and the quality of the product they supply. We derive the optimal price set by a welfarist regulator. If the regulator can commit to a price prior to the choice of locations, the optimal (second-best) price causes overinvestment in quality and an insufficient degree of horizontal differentiation (compared with the first-best solution) if the transportation cost of consumers is sufficiently high. Under partial commitment, where the regulator is not able to commit prior to location choices, the optimal price induces first-best quality, but horizontal differentiation is inefficiently high.