Tag: cartel

The European Commission has fined four glass companies, including the UK firm Pilkington, for operating a price-fixing cartel in the market for car glass. As part of the cartel, managers in the firms, met in secret to fix prices and carve up the market between them. The largest single fine was handed down to the firm Saint-Gobain, the owner of the UK plasterboard group BPB. Saint-Gobain was fined 896 million euros. The four firms between them controlled around 90% of the market for car glass at the time the cartel operated.

Glassmakers fined record €1.4bn for price-fixing by European regulators Guardian (13/11/08)
Europe fines glassmakers record €1.4bn Times Online (12/11/08)


  1. Explain what is meant by a cartel and how it is able to increase the profits of its members.
  2. What market conditions are most likely to lead to the formation of a cartel?
  3. Compare and contrast the role of the UK Competition Commission and the European Commission in maintaining competitive markets.
  4. Evaluate two policies that can be used by governments to prevent price-fixing.

Energywatch, an industry watchdog, has argued in a recent report to MPs that Britain’s electricity and gas supply industry is a “comfortable oligopoly” that feels little need to innovate or compete. They have called for the sector to be subject to a Competition Commission investigation.

Power companies are ripping off consumers Times Online (21/5/08)
Age of cheap power is over Times Online (21/5/08)
Call to investigate energy ‘oligopolies’ Guardian (21/5/08)


1. Explain the main characteristics of an oligopolistic industry.
2. What aspects of the electricity and gas supply market would the Competition Commission consider if asked to investigate the industry?
3. Assess the extent to which the electricity supply industry exhibits oligopolist collusion.

The market for rice has been in turmoil recently with shortages and rapid price rises. This crisis has led to Japan and the USA negotiating a deal to release the surplus rice held by Japan in silos. It is estimated that this deal would lead to around 1.5 million tonnes of rice being made available and this could help reduce the price of rice on global markets.

Japan’s silos key to relieving rice shortage Times Online (17/5/08)
Tokyo stockpiles rice while others go short Times Online (17/5/08)
Thai cartel idea outrages consumers Times Online (3/5/08)
Controlling crops goes against the grain Times Online (3/5/08)


1. Explain why Japan is holding surplus rice in silos.
2. Assess the impact of this ‘distortion’ on the global rice market.
3. With reference to the last two articles linked above, assess the likely impact of the cartel proposed by the Thai prime minister on the global market for rice.

A number of UK supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Safeway, have been fined £116m by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for price fixing. The OFT is still investigating other supermarkets, including Tesco which denies that it was involved in the price collusion. The collusion is estimated to have cost consumers around £270m in higher prices.

Supermarkets fined £116m for price fixing Guardian (8/12/07)
OFT hands out £116m in fines for milk price fixing Guardian (7/12/07)
Supermarkets admit milk price fix BBC News Online (7/12/07)


Farmers reaction to price fixing claims BBC News Online


1. Explain how Sainsbury’s and the other supermarkets colluded to fix milk prices.
2. Assess the market conditions most likely to lead to price collusion in a market.
3. Examine the role of the OFT in reducing uncompetitive and restrictive practices in markets.

Oil prices have seen a relentless rise in recent weeks with much speculation that they will go over $100 a barrel in the near future. The high oil price has seen the average price of petrol go over £1 per litre in the UK, shortages and rationing in Tehran and violence in Yemen. So what is causing oil prices to rise and what impact is this likely to have on the global economy?

Tempests, truckers and tribesmen – another week in the oil market Guardian (10/11/07)
Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study Guardian (22/10/07)
The high oil price may begin to take its toll Times Online (12/11/07)
What is driving oil prices so high? BBC News Online (6/11/07)
OPEC: the oil cartel in profile BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil price rises after OPEC summit BBC News Online (19/11/07)
Oil markets explained BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil prices BBC News Online – Evan Davis blog (10/11/07)
Super-spiked The Economist (1/11/07)


The OPEC statement on oil prices BBC News Online – video link (19/11/07)


1. Using supply and demand analysis, show the reasons why oil prices are rising.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, assess the likely impact of rising oil prices on the level of economic growth in the UK.
3. Discuss the extent to which OPEC has been the main cause of the rise in oil prices.