Skip to main content

Table of Contents

  1. Topic pack - Microeconomics - introduction
  2. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply
  3. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply - notes
  4. 1.1 Competitive markets - questions
  5. 1.1 Competitive markets - simulations and activities
  6. 1.2 Elasticities
  7. 1.2 Elasticities - notes
  8. Section 1.2 Elasticities - questions
  9. Section 1.2 Elasticities - simulations and activities
  10. 1.3 Government intervention
  11. 1.3 Government Intervention - notes
  12. 1.3 Government intervention - questions
  13. 1.3 Government intervention - simulations and activities
  14. 1.4 Market failure
  15. 1.4 Market failure - notes
  16. Section 1.4 Market failure - questions
  17. Section 1.4 Market failure - simulations and activities
  18. 1.5 Theory of the firm
  19. 1.5 Theory of the firm - notes (HL only)
    1. Cost theory
    2. Calculating costs
    3. Short-run
    4. Long-run
    5. Internal economies of scale
    6. External economies of scale
    7. Diseconomies of scale
    8. Long run cost curves
    9. The very long run
    10. Revenues
    11. Revenues - notes
    12. Profit
    13. Profit - notes
    14. Combining revenue and cost curves
    15. Profit maximisation - price taker
    16. Profit maximisation - price setter
    17. Alternative aims of firms
    18. Profit, sales and revenue maximisation
    19. Perfect competition
    20. Perfect competition - notes
    21. Short-run to long-run - profits
    22. Short-run to long-run - losses
    23. Shut down price, break-even price
    24. Efficient allocation of resources
    25. Monopoly and oligopoly
    26. Monopoly and oligopoly - introduction
    27. Growth and power
    28. The model of monopoly
    29. Monopoly - profit maximisation
    30. Monopoly equilibrium
    31. Monopoly v. perfect competition
    32. Economic efficiency in perfect competition
    33. Economic efficiency in perfect competition and monopoly
    34. Efficiency and market structure
    35. Monopolistic competition
    36. Monopolistic competition - notes
    37. Monopolistic competition in the short-run
    38. Monopolistic competition in the long run
    39. Oligopoly
    40. Oligopoly - notes
    41. Advertising and branding
    42. Product innovation
    43. Theories of oligopoly - non-collusive
    44. The kinked demand curve theory
    45. Kinked demand curve - change in cost
    46. Cut-price competition (predatory pricing)
    47. Theories of oligopoly - collusive
    48. Forms of collusion
    49. Price discrimination
    50. Equilibrium of the discriminating monopolist
  20. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - questions
  21. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - simulations and activities
  22. Print View

Forms of collusion

Formal collusion

The most common type of formal collusion is through the cartel; where a small number of rival firms, selling a similar product, come to the conclusion that it is in their joint interests to formally collude rather than compete, they may establish a cartel arrangement in which they agree to set an industry price and output which enables them to achieve a common objective. This is likely to involve the setting of agreed output quotas for each member in order to maintain the agreed price.

A successful cartel arrangement, from the point of view of the participating firms, would be one in which the cartel acts like a single monopolist to maximise profits of individual members. This is illustrated in figure 1 below.


Figure 1 Profit maximisation for the cartel

This is the familiar monopoly diagram, with each curve representing the aggregated situation for all the firms in the cartel. In order to maximise profits, MC is equated with MR and a price of OP is set, with an output of OQ, which represents the potential level of sales. The allocation of this market quota between members could be decided by such criteria as geography, productive capacity or pre-cartel market share, or cartel members, having set a price of OP, could engage in non-price competition to each gain as large a slice of OQ as they can.

In practice, cartels may tend to be rather fragile and may not last for very long. This is because individual members may have an incentive to renege on the agreement by secretly undercutting the cartel price. The almost inevitable necessity to limit output to keep price high will tend to leave individual firms with spare productive capacity, and provide the temptation to increase profits by expanding output. Such an expansion would not only generate profit on the additional sales, but would also increase the profits on existing sales, as average fixed costs would fall as output expanded.

As the end result of successful collusion will be to create a situation similar to monopoly, with its consequent drawbacks and loss of economic efficiency, cartels are illegal in many countries, including the UK and the USA. Various cartels do, however, operate internationally, the most famous of which is OPEC, referred to earlier in your studies. Another example of an international cartel is IATA (The International Air Transport Association) which has sought to set prices for international airline routes. However, the experience of both these cartels has been one of price cutting amongst its members, particularly during periods of declining product demand and competition from non-members.

Informal or tacit collusion

The most usual method of tacit collusion is priceleadership. This occurs where one firm sets a price that is subsequently accepted as the market price by the other producers. There need be no formal or written agreement for this to happen; it is sufficient that firms believe this to be the best way of maintaining or increasing their profits. An example of price leadership is provided by the Ford Motor Company who has often been the first to raise prices in the car industry.



Choose a particular market to study, e.g. the market for soap powders, chocolate bars, computers, ice cream or any other of your choice.

Investigate the degree and nature of competition in your chosen market and the implications of this for producers and consumers.