Category: Essentials of Economics: 8e Ch 08

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.

You do perhaps need to check the date for this story, but once you have established that it wasn’t written on April 1st, you can start to take it a little more seriously. An alliance of an American oil company and food producer is to turn pig fat into diesel fuel. The fuel will apparently have the same chemical properties as diesel but a lower carbon dioxide content and zero sulphur, so should be beneficial for the environment the companies argue.

Pig fat to be turned into diesel BBC News Online (19/4/07)

Questions

1. Using diagrams as appropriate, compare and contrast the environmental impact of conventional diesel and the new pig fat bio-diesel.
2. Discuss the extent to which the new pig fat diesel will be better for the environment than conventional diesel.
3. Evaluate two policies that the government could implement to encourage the use of alternative fuels like the new pig fat bio-diesel.

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.

Having secured the 2012 Olympics, we now have to work out how to pay for it. Recent news has indicated that the cost of hosting the Olympics has risen significantly from the original estimate. However, there is considerable debate in the media about what the real cost is. The figures given are massive, but what will we be left with after the games are over? How can we value these assets? The blog below from Evan Davis looks at some of these issues and discusses the real cost of hosting the Olympics.

Why do costs overrun? BBC News Online (16/3/07)
Real cost of 2012? BBC News Online – Evan Davis blog (15/3/07)

Questions

1. Identify five fixed and five variable costs of running the Olympics.
2. Discuss the value of the opportunity cost of hosting the Olympics.
3. List the direct and indirect benefits of hosting the 2012 Olympics in London.