Price Determination under Monopoly

Price Determination under Monopoly

Monopoly is that market form in which a single producer controls the whole supply of a single commodity which has no close substitute.

From this definition there are two points that must be noted:

(i)                 Single Producer: There must be only one producer who may be an individual, a partnership firm or a joint stock company. Thus single firm constitutes the industry. The distinction between firm and industry disappears under conditions of monopoly.

(ii)               No Close Substitute: The commodity produced by the producer must have no closely competing substitutes, if he is to be called a monopolist. This ensures that there is no rival of the monopolist. Therefore, the cross elasticity of demand between the product of the monopolist and the product of any other producer must be very low.

Price-Output Determination under Monopoly:

A firm under monopoly faces a downward sloping demand curve or average revenue curve. Further, in monopoly, since average revenue falls as more units of output are sold, the marginal revenue is less than the average revenue. In other words, under monopoly the MR curve lies below the AR curve.

The Equilibrium level in monopoly is that level of output in which marginal revenue equals marginal cost. The producer will continue producer as long as marginal revenue exceeds the marginal cost. At the point where MR is equal to MC the profit will be maximum and beyond this point the producer will stop producing.

It can be seen from the diagram that up till OM output, marginal revenue is greater than marginal cost, but beyond OM the marginal revenue is less than marginal cost. Therefore, the monopolist will be in equilibrium at output OM where marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost and the profits are the greatest. The corresponding price in the diagram is MP’ or OP. It can be seen from the diagram at output OM, while MP’ is the average revenue, ML is the average cost, therefore, P’L is the profit per unit. Now the total profit is equal to P’L (profit per unit) multiply by OM (total output).

In the short run, the monopolist has to keep an eye on the variable cost, otherwise he will stop producing. In the long run, the monopolist can change the size of plant in response to a change in demand. In the long run, he will make adjustment in the amount of the factors, fixed and variable, so that MR equals not only to short run MC but also long run MC.

Comparison of Price Determination under Perfect Competition and Monopoly:

The key points of comparison of price determination under Perfect Competition and Monopoly is as below:

 Perfect Competition Monopoly (i) The demand curve or average revenue curve is perfectly elastic and is a horizontal straight line. (i) The demand curve or average revenue curve is relatively elastic and a downward sloping from left to right. (ii) The firm is in equilibrium at the level of output where MC is equal to MR. Since in perfect competition MR is equal to AR or price, therefore, when MC is equal to MR, it is also equal to AR or price at the equlibrium position, i.e., MC=MR=AR (Price) (ii) The firm is in equilibrium at the level of output where MC is equal to MR. (iii) In equilibrium position, the price charged by the firm equals to MC. (iii) In equilibrium position, the price charged by the firm is above MC. (iv) The firm is in long-run equilibrium at the minimum point of the long-run AC curve. (iv) The firm is in long-run equilibrium at the point where AC curve is still declining and has not reached the minimum point. (v) The firm is in equilibrium at the level of output at which MC curve is rising, and is cutting MR curve from below. (v) The firm is in equilibrium at the level of output at which MR curve is sloping downwards, and MC curve is cutting it from below or above. (See figure 1) (vi) In the long run, the firm is earning normal profit. There may be super normal profit in the short run but they will be swept away in the long run, as new firms entered into the industry. (vi) The firm can earn abnormal or supernormal profit even in the long run, as there is no competitor in the industry. (vii) Price can be set lower at greater output in case of constant-cost and decreasing-cost industries. (vii) Price is set higher and output smaller by the monopolist. (See Figure 2)

Price Discrimination in Monopoly:

Price discrimination may be (a) personal, (b) local, or (c) according to trade or use:

(a)   Personal: It is personal when different prices are charged for different persons.

(b)   Local: It is local when the price varies according to locality.

(c)   According to Trade or Use: It is according to trade or use when different prices are charged for different uses to which the commodity is put, for example, electricity is supplied at cheaper rates for domestic than for commercial purposes.

Some monopolists used product differentiation for price discrimination by means of special labels, wrappers, packing, etc. For example, the perfume manufacturers discriminate prices of the same fragrance by packing it with different labels or brands.

Conditions of Price-Discrimination: There are three main types of situation:

(a)   When consumers have certain preferences or prejudices. Certain consumers usually have the irrational feeling that they are paying higher prices for a good because it is of a better quality, although actually it may be of the same quality. Sometimes, the price differences may be so small that consumers do not consider it worthwhile to bother about such differences.

(b)   When the nature of the good is such as makes it possible for the monopolist to charge different prices. This happens particularly when the good in question is a direct service.

(c)   When consumers are separated by distance or tariff barriers. A good may be sold in one town for Re. 1 and in another town for Rs. 2. Similarly, the monopolist can charge higher prices in a city with greater distance or a country levying heavy import duty.

Conditions making Price Discrimination Possible and Profitable: The following conditions are essential to make price discrimination possible and profitable:

(a)   The elasticities of demand in different markets must be different. The market is divided into sub-markets. The sub-market will be arranged in ascending order of their elasticities, the higher price being charged in the least elastic market and vice versa.

(b)   The costs incurred in dividing the market into sub-markets and keeping them separate should not be so large as to neutralise the difference in demand elasticities.

(c)   There should be complete agreement among the sellers otherwise the competitors will gain by selling in the dear market.

(d)   When goods are sold on special orders because then the purchaser cannot know what is being charged from others.

Price Determination under Price Discrimination:

(i)                 First of all, the monopolist divides his total market into sub-markets. In the following diagrams, the monopolist has divided his total market into two sub-markets, i.e., A and B:

(ii)               The monopolist has now to decide at what level of output he should produce. To achieve maximum profit, hence, he will be in equilibrium at output at which MR=MC, and MC curve cuts the MR curve from below. In the above diagram (c) it is shown that the equilibrium of the discriminating monopolist is established at output OM at which MC cuts CMR. The output OM is distributed between two markets in such a way that marginal revenue in each is equal to ME. Therefore, he will sell output OM1 in Market A, because only at this output marginal revenue MR’ in Market A is equal to ME (M1E’ = ME). The same condition is applied in Market B where MR” is equal to ME (M2E” = ME). In the above diagram, it is also shown that in Market B in which elasticity of demand is greater, the price charged is lower than that in Market B where the elasticity of demand is less.