Headquarters of the Rhenish-Westphalian Coal Syndicate, Germany (at times the best known cartel in the world), around 1910
The printing equipment company American Type Founders (ATF) explicitly states in its 1923 manual that its goal is to "discourage unhealthy competition" in the printing industry.

Group of independent market participants who collude with each other in order to improve their profits and dominate the market.

- Cartel

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Market with the "absence of competition", creating a situation where a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular thing.

This 1879 anti-monopoly cartoon depicts powerful railroad barons controlling the entire rail system.
Surpluses and deadweight loss created by monopoly price setting
A 1902 anti-monopoly cartoon depicts the challenges that monopolies may create for workers

Likewise, a monopoly should be distinguished from a cartel (a form of oligopoly), in which several providers act together to coordinate services, prices or sale of goods.

Price fixing

Anticompetitive agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product, service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given level by controlling supply and demand.

Does Price Fixing Destroy Liberty? (1920) by George Howard Earle Jr.

When the agreement to control price is sanctioned by a multilateral treaty or is entered by sovereign nations as opposed to individual firms, the cartel may be protected from lawsuits and criminal antitrust prosecution.


Deceitful agreement or secret cooperation between two or more parties to limit open competition by deceiving, misleading or defrauding others of their legal right.

Future collusive profits
Set higher prices

To differentiate from a cartel, collusive agreements between parties may not be explicit; however, the implications of cartels and collusion are the same.


Self-organizing group of individuals, companies, corporations or entities formed to transact some specific business, to pursue or promote a shared interest.

Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries

A sales syndicate is a cartel with a joint sales agency.

Competition law

Field of law that promotes or seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies.

Judge Coke in the 17th century thought that general restraints on trade were unreasonable.
Elizabeth I assured monopolies would not be abused in the early era of globalization.
Senatorial Round House by Thomas Nast, 1886
There is considerable controversy among WTO members, in green, whether competition law should form part of the agreements
John Stuart Mill believed the restraint of trade doctrine was justified to preserve liberty and competition.
Paul Samuelson, author of the 20th century's most successful economics text, combined mathematical models and Keynesian macroeconomic intervention. He advocated the general success of the market but backed the American government's antitrust policies.
Robert Bork
Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith was an early enemy of cartels.
The economist's depiction of deadweight loss to efficiency that monopolies cause

prohibiting agreements or practices that restrict free trading and competition between business. This includes in particular the repression of free trade caused by cartels.

Cartel theory

Gustav von Schmoller (1838-1917)
Robert Liefmann (1874-1941)
Jeremiah Jenks (1856–1929)
Francis Laur (1844–1934)

Cartel theory is usually understood as the doctrine of economic cartels.


Intergovernmental organization of countries.

OPEC Conference delegates at Swissotel, Quito, Ecuador, December 2010.
OPEC headquarters in Vienna
(2009 building).
An undersupplied US gasoline station, closed during the oil embargo in 1973.
A woman uses wood in a fireplace for heat. A newspaper headline in the foreground shows a story regarding a lack of heating oil in the community.
Fluctuations of OPEC net oil export revenues since 1972
One of the hundreds of Kuwaiti oil fires set by retreating Iraqi troops in 1991
Fluctuations of Brent crude oil price, 1988–2015
OPEC members' net oil export revenues, 2000–2020
Countries by net oil exports (2008).
Countries by oil production (2013)
Gusher well in Saudi Arabia: conventional source of OPEC production
Shale "fracking" in the US: important new challenge to OPEC market share
Logo for JODI, in which OPEC is a founding member.
Sulfur content and API gravity of different types of crude oil.

Economists have characterized OPEC as a textbook example of a cartel that cooperates to reduce market competition, but one whose consultations are protected by the doctrine of state immunity under international law.


Association of artisans and merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area.

The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild by Rembrandt, 1662.
One of the legacies of the guilds: the elevated Windsor Guildhall originated as a meeting place for guilds, as well as a magistrates' seat and town hall.
Traditional hand forged guild sign of a glazier — in Germany. These signs can be found in many old European towns where guild members marked their places of business. Many survived through time or staged a comeback in industrial times. Today they are restored or even newly created, especially in old town areas.
Coats of arms of guilds in a town in the Czech Republic displaying symbols of various European medieval trades and crafts
The medieval Merchant Guild House in Vyborg, Russia
A center of urban government: the Guildhall, London (engraving, c. 1805)
Locksmith, 1451
The Haarlem Painter's Guild in 1675, by Jan de Bray.
An example of the last of the British Guilds meeting rooms c. 1820
Shoemakers, 1568

The earliest types of guild formed as organizations of tradesmen, belonging to: a professional association, a cartel, and/or a secret society.

Mergers and acquisitions

In corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are transactions in which the ownership of companies, other business organizations, or their operating units are transferred or consolidated with other entities.

Replica of an East Indiaman of the Dutch East India Company/United East India Company (VOC). A pioneering early model of the public company and multinational corporation in its modern sense, the VOC was formed in 1602 from a government-directed consolidation/amalgamation of several competing Dutch trading companies (the so-called voorcompagnieën). It was possibly in fact the first recorded major consolidation and is generally one of the most successful mergers (in particular amalgamations) in the history of business.

One strategy to keep prices high and to maintain profitability was for producers of the same good to collude with each other and form associations, also known as cartels.

Otis Worldwide

American company that develops, manufactures and markets elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and related equipment.

An Otis escalator

In February 2007, European Union regulators fined Otis Elevator €225 million (US$295.8 million) for being part of a price-fixing cartel in the Belgian, Dutch, Luxembourg, and German markets.