Defining Oligopoly


An oligopoly is a form of competition in which a market is dominated by just a few sellers. Generally, oligopolies exist in industries that produce products such as steel, cereal, automobiles, aluminum, and aircraft. One reason some industries remain in the hands of a few sellers is that the initial investment to enter an oligopolistic industry is usually tremendous. Think what it would cost to build a steel mill or an automobile assembly plant. In an oligopoly, prices tend to be close to the same. Note, for example, how most credit cards charge very similar rates. The reason for this is simple. Intense price competition would lower profits for all the competitors, since a price cut on the part of one producer would most likely be matched by others. Product differentiation, rather than price differentiation, is usually the major factor in market success in a situation of oligopoly.

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