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Can Information about Energy Costs Affect Consumers Choices? Evidence from a Field Experiment
Last registered on July 13, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Can Information about Energy Costs Affect Consumers Choices? Evidence from a Field Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006145
Initial registration date
July 13, 2020
Last updated
July 13, 2020 2:37 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
ETH Zurich
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
PI Affiliation
ETH Zurich
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2017-04-01
End date
2019-03-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
There is an ongoing debate in the literature about whether imperfect information affects consumers' investment efficiency. We experimentally evaluate the role of imperfect information or limited attention about energy costs in households' choices of home appliances and light bulbs. Using in-home visits, we collect detailed information on the energy efficiency of the participants' current energy-consuming household durables. Our intervention exploits these unique data to provide treated households with customized information about the potential of monetary savings from the adoption of new, comparable and efficient, durables.
We find a substantial information treatment effect on both the energy efficiency of the newly purchased durables and the intensity of utilization of current home appliances. Further, the results show that households respond to the customized intervention more when, ex-ante, there is greater potential of savings, and that the information treatment induced the purchase of appliances with lower total lifetime costs. These findings suggest that individuals are not fully informed about or pay attention to energy costs when purchasing and utilizing energy-consuming household durables, and have important policy implications.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Boogen, Nina et al. 2020. "Can Information about Energy Costs Affect Consumers Choices? Evidence from a Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. July 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6145-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2018-02-01
Intervention End Date
2019-02-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
probability of purchase of new energy-consuming durables, level of energy efficiency of the newly purchased durables (conditional on the purchase decision), intensity of utilization
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Two Swiss utilities agreed to provide the contacts of 40,000 households, randomly selected among their customers, to take part to the experiment. These customers were randomly allocated between the treatment (29,000 households) and the control group (11,000 households).
Between April and September 2017, the households allocated to the treatment received an invitation to take a baseline survey. The participation requirements are two: (i) the household should have moved into her current residence before 1.1.2017; (ii) the customer number entered for identification purposes should refer to the principal residence. At the end of the survey, the participants have been offered to receive a free in-home visit to then obtain information about the energy efficiency of their major home appliances and lighting.
We contacted these households to schedule an appointment for the in-home visit between October 2017 and January 2018. We sent a customized report to each household in the treatment group by regular mail. In February 2019, we carried out a follow-up survey asking participants in the treatment group about their purchase decisions in the previous year.
No customer of the utilities allocated to the control group was contacted with reference to the research project in 2017. In the fall of 2018, the same recruitment process was implemented for the customers in the control group: they received an invitation letter to take the same baseline survey followed by an invitation to receive the in-home visit. The same participation requirements used for the treatment group were set for the control group. During the in-home visit, participants in the control group were also asked about the decisions of purchase of energy-consuming durables taken in the previous year.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization carried out by the partner utilities in office by computer
Randomization Unit
Randomization at individual level, within the target group of each utility
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
40000
Sample size: planned number of observations
40000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
29000 in treatment group, 11000 in control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS