Should consumers pay robot taxes? Psychological differences in consumers’ responses to excise type robot taxes

Kimia Aghayi*, Jaakko Aspara, Robert Ciuchita, Martina Caic

*Motsvarande författare för detta arbete

Forskningsoutput: Kapitel i bok/rapport/konferenshandlingKonferensbidragVetenskapligPeer review


It has been widely discussed that technological innovations such as self service technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and service robots can significantly reshape service processes and improve customer experiences of accessibility, responsiveness, and reliability. However, these innovation carry the potential risk of replacing humans as the central actors in service delivery (Breidbach et al. 2018; Frey and Osborne 2017; Mortensen and Pissarides 1998). Following growing concerns about job loss due to automatization and robotization in various industries (Autor, 2015), since the 2010s, scholars in many fields discuss the possibility to limit job losses with ”robot taxation” (Guerreiro, Rebelo & Teles, 2022; Zhang, 2019, Abbott & Bogenschneider, 2018; Kovacev, 2020; Mazur, 2019; Oberson, 2017) that is, levying taxes on companies that intensively utilize robots and automation. In contrast, not a single source of academic literature, nor business press, seems to entertain the idea of levying a robot tax on consumers purchasing and using goods. Thus, in this paper, we initiate an altogether new research stream focusing on the novel idea of levying a robot tax on consumers, instead of companies. If consumers indeed were to be charged a tax on top of the purchase price of a robot-delivered service, the tax would be akin to an excise tax (Shoked, 2018), not unlike the taxes charged in the case of products containing alcohol (or sugar) in many countries (Claudy. M et al., 2021).

In four experiments, we study consumers’ behavioral responses toward this idea. We test whether the effectiveness of such robot tax will be higher as it decreases consumer demand and purchase intentions in a restaurant which employs robots in the kitchen. This is because the decreased consumer demand disincentivizes firms from excessive robotization and discourages firms from replacing all human labor with robots . A pre-study revealed that consumers’ evaluations of an offer containing a robot tax were confounded with their (i) curiosity towards the robot labor employed to produce that offer, (ii) reactance towards the idea of paying extra tax for the robot. Thus, we examine the corresponding consumer traits as they are conceptually inverse: (i) variety-seeking (e.g., Helm & Landschulze, 2009) and (ii) self-regulatory prevention (e.g., Haws, Dholakia, & Bearden, 2010; Higgins, 1998).
The results demonstrate that participants with a high prevention focus (or low variety seeking) exposed to the robot tax exhibited lower (higher) purchase intentions than participants exposed to sales tax. Furher, we found that robot tax without any extra justification reduces purchase intention only for consumers of high prevention focus, while the extra justification for the robot tax turns around the effect and increases the purchase intentions.
This study contributes to dissolving the double-edged effect of using robots and automation in service settings and nature of work as one of the key priorities in service research (Ostrom et al., 2021). It also contributes to the Marketing and consumer research literature by extending research on consumer psychology and responses to robots (e.g., Puntoni et al. 2020/JM, Granulo et al. 2020). We provide practical implications for policy makers that by proposing that robot tax, in the form of consumption/excise tax, can be effective in reducing consumption demand for service offers relying on robot labor – but only in certain conditions.
Titel på värdpublikationFrontiers in Service Conference 2023: From romans to robots: service research in emotion
StatusPublicerad - 2023
MoE-publikationstypA4 Artikel i en konferenspublikation
EvenemangFrontiers in Service: From romans to robots: service research in emotion - Maastricht, Holland
Varaktighet: 15.06.202318.06.2023


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