Category: Essential Economics for Business: Ch 06

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to set up an investigation into the reality of ‘free banking’ to establish whether greater transparency in charging would benefit consumers. The articles linked to below consider the scope of this investigation and look at what some consider the ‘myth’ of free banking.

OFT probe into bank charges could mean end of ‘free banking’ The Scotsman (27/4/07)
‘Free’ banking could end as overdraft charges challenged Guardian (27/4/07)
Watchdog probes cost of banking BBC News Online (27/4/07)
Charges inquiry may spell end of free banking Telegraph (28/4/07)
OFT considers ending ‘free’ banking Times Online (27/4/07)
Q&A: Banking investigation and you BBC News Online (26/4/07)
Calling banks’ bluff BBC News Online – Robert Peston blog (26/4/07)
Free banking ‘myth’ to be probed Guardian (26/4/07)

Questions

1. Explain the reason why some people consider free banking to be a ‘myth’.
2. Examine the likely impact of the market structure in the market for banking on the level of competition.
3. Assess two policies that the government could implement to ensure that consumers get a fairer deal from their banks.

Dutch brewers including Heineken and Grolsch have been fined a total of nearly £185m between them for stifling competition and sharing price information with the intention of fixing prices. This cartel was discovered by EU investigators and the fine has been imposed by the EU competition commission.

Dutch brewers fined over cartel BBC News Online (18/4/07)
Beer makers fined in Dutch price probe Business Week (18/4/07)
EU fines Heineken for fixing beer prices Business Week (18/4/07)
Heineken and Grolsch fined for price-fixing Guardian (18/4/07)
Heineken fined 219m euro for fixing beer prices Times Online (18/4/07)

Questions

1. Explain the conditions required for a cartel to develop.
2. Explain the methods used by the brewing firms to fix prices in the beer market.
3. Evaluate two policies that could be used by the EU competition commission to try to prevent cartels reemerging in the future in the brewing industry.

In what is being heralded as a historic deal, the EU has reached agreement with the USA on what is termed an ‘open skies’ deal. This will allow EU-based airlines to fly from anywhere in Europe to anywhere in the USA and US carriers can operate to any European destination. So what will this deal mean for travellers, the environment and the airlines. The articles below look at the issues and also at the detail of the agreement, which still maintains many of the previous limitations on airlines and their ownership.

EU backing for ‘open skies’ deal BBC News Online (22/3/07)
Q&A: Open skies BBC News Online (22/3/07)
EU agrees open skies deal Guardian (22/3/07)
Open skies: Q&A Guardian (22/3/07)
Transatlantic fares set to tumble after ‘open skies’ deal Times Online(22/3/07)

Questions

1. What criteria should be used to assess the success of the ‘open skies’ deal?
2. Assess the extent to which the ‘open skies’ deal will increase the level of competition in the transatlantic market for air travel.
3. Discuss the options available to the EU to increase competition further in the market for air travel.

March 2007 has seen a lot of activity in government circles relating to the environment and environmental legislation. The EU has agreed a renewable energy target for all members while the UK government has released its own climate change bill. The Carbon Trust has then released a one-year pilot of a carbon labelling scheme, with Walkers Crisps being the first brand to bear the carbon labels. The aim is to increase consumers’ awareness of the carbon footprint of the goods they are buying. The articles linked below look at all these issues.

EU agrees renewable energy target BBC News Online (9/3/07)
EU seeks converts to eco-stoicism BBC News Online (9/3/07)
Navarra embraces green energy BBC News Online (9/3/07)
How Europe can save the world Guardian (11/3/07)
Carbon labelling scheme launched BBC News Online (15/3/07)
Labels reveal goods’ carbon cost BBC News Online (16/3/07)
New law in the climate jungle BBC News Online (13/3/07)

Questions

1. Explain the difference between private costs and external costs. Identify five external costs that arise from the generation of electricity by conventional means.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact on the market for energy of increased use of energy generated from renewable sources.
3. Evaluate the likely effectiveness of the carbon labelling scheme introduced by the Carbon Trust.