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Concept of price war and oligopoly theories economics essay

In this hypothetical case, the 3-firm concentration ratio is 88. Further examples Banking The Herfindahl — Hirschman Index H-H Index This is an alternative method of measuring concentration and for tracking changes in the level of concentration following mergers. If the index is below 1000, the market is not considered concentrated, while an index above 2000 indicates a highly concentrated market or industry — the higher the figure the greater the concentration.

Key characteristics The main characteristics of firms operating in a market with few close rivals include: Interdependence Firms that are interdependent cannot act independently of each other. A firm operating in a market with just a few competitors must take the potential reaction of its closest rivals into account when making its own decisions.

For example, if a petrol retailer like Texaco wishes to increase its market share by reducing price, it must take into account the possibility that close rivals, such as Shell and BP, may reduce their price in retaliation. Strategy Strategy is extremely important to firms that are interdependent. Because firms cannot act independently, they must anticipate the likely response of a rival to any given change in their price, or their non-price activity.

In other words, they need to plan, and work out a range of possible options based on how they think rivals might react. Oligopolists have to make critical strategic decisions, such as: Whether to compete with rivals, or collude with them.

Whether to raise or lower price, or keep price constant. Whether to be the first firm to implement a new strategy, or whether to wait and see what rivals do.

Sometimes it pays to go first because a firm can generate head-start profits. These hurdles are called barriers to entry and the incumbent can erect them deliberately, or they can exploit natural barriers that exist.

Natural entry barriers include: Economies of large scale production. If a market has significant economies of scale that have already been exploited by the incumbents, new entrants are deterred. Ownership or control of a key scarce resource Owning scarce resources that other firms would like to use creates a considerable barrier to entry, such as an airline controlling access to an airport.

High set-up costs High set-up costs deter initial market entry, because they increase break-even output, and delay the possibility of making profits. Many of these costs are sunk concept of price war and oligopoly theories economics essaywhich are costs that cannot be recovered when a firm leaves a market, and include marketing and advertising costs and other fixed costs. In order to compete, new entrants will have to match, or exceed, this level of spending in order to compete in the future.

Predatory pricing Predatory pricing occurs when a firm deliberately tries to push prices low enough to force rivals out of the market.

Limit pricing Limit pricing means the incumbent firm sets a low price, and a high output, so that entrants cannot make a profit at that price.

Essay on Oligopoly: Top 8 Essays on Oligopoly | Markets | Microeconomics

This is best achieved by selling at a price just below the average total costs ATC of potential entrants. This signals to potential entrants that profits are impossible to make. Superior knowledge An incumbent may, over time, have built up a superior level of knowledge of the market, its customers, and its production costs.

This superior knowledge can deter entrants into the market. Predatory acquisition Predatory acquisition involves taking-over a potential rival by purchasing sufficient shares to gain a controlling interest, or by a complete buy-out. As with other deliberate barriers, regulators, like the Competition and Markets Authority CMAmay prevent this because it is likely to reduce competition. Advertising Advertising is another sunk cost - the more that is spent by incumbent firms the greater the deterrent to new entrants.

Exclusive contracts, patents and licences These make entry difficult as they favour existing firms who have won the contracts or own the concept of price war and oligopoly theories economics essay. Another key feature of oligopolistic markets is that firms may attempt to collude, rather than compete.

If colluding, participants act like a monopoly and can enjoy the benefits of higher profits over the long term. Types of collusion Overt Overt collusion occurs when there is no attempt to hide agreements, such as the when firms form trade associations like the Association of Petrol Retailers.

Covert Covert collusion occurs when firms concept of price war and oligopoly theories economics essay to hide the results of their collusion, usually to avoid detection by regulators, such as when fixing prices. Tacit Tacit collusion arises when firms act together, called acting in concert, but where there is no formal or even informal agreement. For example, it may be accepted that a particular firm is the price leader in an industry, and other firms simply follow the lead of this firm.

If firms do collude, and their behaviour can be proven to result in reduced competition, they are likely to be subject to regulation.

In many cases, tacit collusion is difficult or impossible to prove, though regulators are becoming increasingly sophisticated in developing new methods of detection. Competitive oligopolies When competing, oligopolists prefer non-price competition in order to avoid price wars.

A price reduction may achieve strategic benefits, such as gaining market share, or deterring entry, but the danger is that rivals will simply reduce their prices in response.

This leads to little or no gain, but can lead to falling revenues and profits. Hence, a far more beneficial strategy may be to undertake non-price competition. Pricing strategies of oligopolies Oligopolies may pursue the following pricing strategies: Oligopolists may use predatory pricing to force rivals out of the market.

This means keeping price artificially low, and often below the full cost of production. They may also operate a limit-pricing strategy to deter entrants, which is also called entry forestalling price.

Oligopolists may collude with rivals and raise price together, but this may attract new entrants. Cost-plus pricing is a straightforward pricing method, where a firm sets a price by calculating average production costs and then adding a fixed mark-up to achieve a desired profit level.

Cost-plus pricing is also called rule of thumb pricing. Cost-plus pricing is very useful for firms that produce a number of different products, or where uncertainty exists. It has been suggested that cost-plus pricing is common because a precise calculation of marginal cost and marginal revenue is difficult for many oligopolists.

Hence, it can be regarded as a response to information failure. Cost-plus pricing is also common in oligopoly markets because it is likely that the few firms that dominate may often share similar costs, as in the case of petrol retailers. However, there is a risk with such a rigid pricing strategy as rivals could adopt a more flexible discounting strategy to gain market share. Cost-plus pricing can also be explained through the application of game theory.

If one firm uses cost-plus pricing - perhaps the dominant firm with the greatest market share - others may follow-suit so that the strategy becomes a shared one, which acts as a pricing rule. This takes some of the risk out of pricing decisions, given that all firms will abide by the rule.

This could be considered a form of tacit collusion. Non-price strategies Non-price competition is the favoured strategy for oligopolists because price competition can lead to destructive price wars — examples include: Trying to improve quality and after sales servicing, such as offering extended guarantees.

Spending on advertising, sponsorship and product placement - also called hidden advertising — is very significant to many oligopolists.

Sales promotion, such as buy-one-get-one-free BOGOFis associated with the large supermarkets, which is a highly oligopolistic market, dominated by three or four large chains.

Each strategy can be evaluated in terms of: How successful is it likely to be? Will rivals be able to copy the strategy?

  • Each firm must decide how much to produce, and the two firms make their decisions at the same time;
  • Will rivals be able to copy the strategy?
  • The advantages of oligopolies However, oligopolies may provide the following benefits;
  • Kinked demand curve The reaction of rivals to a price change depends on whether price is raised or lowered;
  • The total revenue of each duopolist depends upon his own output level as also as that of his rival;
  • Cartel-like behaviour reduces competition and can lead to higher prices and reduced output.

Will the firms get a 1st - mover advantage? How expensive is it to introduce the strategy? If the cost of implementation is greater than the pay-off, clearly it will be rejected. How long will it take to work? A strategy that takes five years to generate a pay-off may be rejected in favour of a strategy with a quicker pay-off.

Price stickiness The theory of oligopoly suggests that, once a price has been determined, will stick it at this price. This is largely because firms cannot pursue independent strategies. For example, if an airline raises the price of its tickets from London to New York, rivals will not follow suit and the airline will lose revenue - the demand curve for the price increase is relatively elastic.

Rivals have no need to follow suit because it is to their competitive advantage to keep their prices as they are. However, if the airline lowers its price, rivals would be forced to follow suit and drop their prices in response.

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Again, the airline will lose sales revenue and market share. The demand curve is relatively inelastic in this context. Kinked demand curve The reaction of rivals to a price change depends on whether price is raised or lowered.

The elasticity of demand, and hence the gradient of the demand curve, will be also be different. The demand curve will be kinked, at the current price. Even when there is a large rise in marginal cost, price tends to stick close to its original, given the high price elasticity of demand for any price rise.

At price P, and output Q, revenue will be maximised. Maximising profits If marginal revenue and marginal costs are added it is possible to show that profits will also be maximised at price P. Even when MC moves out of the vertical portion, the effect on price is minimal, and consumers will not gain the benefit of any cost reduction.

  • Different Reaction Patterns and Use of Models;
  • The earliest model of duopoly behaviour is the Cournot model, with which we may start our review of different oligopoly models;
  • This means that if a single firm changes its output, the prices charged by all the firms will be raised or lowered;
  • This takes some of the risk out of pricing decisions, given that all firms will abide by the rule.

A game theory approach to price stickiness Pricing strategies can also be looked at in terms of game theory ; that is in terms of strategies and payoffs. There are three possible price strategies, with different pay-offs and risks: Raise price Lower price Keep price constant The choice of strategy will depend upon the pay-offs, which depends upon the actions of competitors.

Raising price or lowering price could lead to a beneficial pay-off, but both strategies can lead to losses, which could be potentially disastrous.

In short, changing price is too risky to undertake. Therefore, although keeping price constant will not lead to the single best outcome, it may be the least risky strategy for an oligopolist.

There is a tendency for cartels to form because co-operation is likely to be highly rewarding. Co-operation reduces the uncertainty associated with the mutual interdependence of rivals in an oligopolistic market.

Price Wars and the Stability of Collusion: A Study of the Pre-World War I Bromine Industry

Cartels are designed to protect the interests of members, and the interests of consumers may suffer because of: Higher prices or hidden prices, such as the hidden charges in credit card transactions Lower output Restricted choice or other limiting conditions associated with the transaction A classic game called the Prisoner's Dilemma is often used to demonstrate the interdependence of oligopolists. Examples of Oligopoly Oligopolies are common in the airline industry, bankingbrewing, soft-drinks, supermarkets and music.

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