Oligopoly: Pricing and Game Theory

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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. An understanding of game theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma helps appreciate the concept of interdependence. Strategy Strategy is extremely important to firms that are…show more content…
Advertising Advertising is another sunk cost - the more that is spent by incumbent firms the greater the deterrent to new entrants. A strong brand A strong brand creates loyalty, ‘locks in’ existing customers, and deters entry. Loyalty schemes Schemes such as Tesco’s Club Card, help oligopolists retain customer loyalty and deter entrants who need to gain market share. Exclusive contracts, patents and licences These make entry difficult as they favour existing firms who have won the contracts or own the licenses. For example, contracts between suppliers and retailers can exclude other retailers from entering the market. Vertical integration Vertical integration can ‘tie up’ the supply chain and make life tough for potential entrants, such as an electronics manufacturer like Sony having its own retail outlets (Sony Centres), and a brewer like Heineken owning its own chain of UK pubs, which it acquired from the brewers Scottish and Newcastle in 2008. Collusive oligopolies 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
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