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Analyse the characteristics of a contestable market

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Introduction

Sam Larlham F584: Transport Economics Analyse the characteristics of a contestable market (15 marks) A contestable market operates in a similar manner to one in perfect competition, with one of the key differences being that a contestable market can have any number of firms (as opposed to an infinite number in a perfectly competitive market). This means that, in theory, a contestable market could feature a monopoly or oligopoly, however generally these markets have a relatively large number of firms and therefore a low concentration ratio. The key characteristic of this market that makes it contestable is that there are little or no barriers to entry and exit. In terms of low barriers to entry, this generally means that the market is not heavily regulated and therefore firms need not meet many requirements in order to join it. ...read more.

Middle

At this point, ?hit and run? firms can and will exit the market, due to their low sunk costs meaning they can do so having benefitted from their entry into the market. Conversely, if a firm was operating at an abnormal loss low exit barriers would be enable it to exit the market swiftly to limit its losses (which would of course decrease market supply and cause the price to return to a level of normal profit for the remaining firms). As such, another characteristic is that a contestable market always features potential competition; even if a firm is not being competed with by another in the market, they always perceive competition to be on the periphery. ...read more.

Conclusion

The first is that it is difficult for one firm to have an advantage in its methods of production (be that better technology, better use of labour etc.) as the perfect information allows other firms to achieve this as well. The second is that due to the combination of the two factors, there is a high consumer churn. This means that consumers can easily switch from one producer to another, as perfect information means they are aware of who is offering the best price and a low level of product differentiation means they are buying largely the same product. Therefore if a monopoly was operating at abnormal profit, a small firm could enter the market with a homogeneous product and (provided its price was lower than that of the monopoly) realistically compete and achieve at least normal profit. This explains why a contestable market could have any number of firms. ...read more.

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