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Which helps enable an oligopoly to form within a market?

(i) No competition exists between producers.

(ii) Costs of starting a competing business are too high.

(iii) The number of options in the market confuses consumers.

(iv) The government restricts market entry.


The answer is (ii) Costs of starting a competing business are too high.

In the world of economics, market structures play a crucial role in determining the level of competition, pricing, and overall market dynamics. One such market structure is an oligopoly, characterized by a small number of firms dominating a particular industry. While various factors contribute to the formation of an oligopoly, one significant aspect is the high costs associated with starting a competing business. In this article, we delved into the role of high costs as a barrier to market entry and its implications for the formation of oligopolies.

Understanding Oligopolies

Before diving into the influence of high costs, it’s essential to comprehend the nature of oligopolies. In an oligopolistic market, a handful of firms hold significant market power, creating a concentrated industry structure. These firms possess the ability to influence prices, exert control over market demand, and make strategic decisions that shape the industry landscape.

High Costs: A Barrier to Market Entry

Capital Intensity: Starting a new business, especially in industries such as manufacturing, telecommunications, or energy, often requires substantial initial investments in infrastructure, machinery, and technology. The capital-intensive nature of these industries acts as a deterrent to potential entrants. Established firms in an oligopoly benefit from economies of scale, as they have already spread their fixed costs over a large output. This gives them a competitive advantage and makes it difficult for new entrants to match their production capabilities and cost efficiency.

Research and Development (R&D) Expenses: Innovation is a driving force behind competition and growth in many industries. However, conducting R&D activities often involves substantial investments in research facilities, skilled personnel, and intellectual property protection. Existing firms in an oligopoly can leverage their financial resources to fund extensive R&D initiatives, enabling them to develop new products, improve existing ones, and stay ahead of the competition. The high costs associated with R&D create a barrier for new entrants, limiting their ability to introduce disruptive innovations and challenge the incumbents.

Marketing and Advertising: Establishing brand recognition and capturing market share requires significant marketing and advertising expenditures. Dominant firms in an oligopoly have already invested heavily in building their brands and establishing customer loyalty. They have the financial capacity to launch extensive marketing campaigns, secure prominent advertising spaces, and maintain a strong market presence. New entrants with limited resources find it challenging to compete with such established brands, as they may struggle to generate awareness and attract customers amidst the cluttered market.

Implications of High Costs and Oligopolistic Markets

Reduced Competition: The presence of high barriers to entry, including high costs, limits the number of competitors in the market. Oligopolies emerge when a small number of firms gain a significant market share, often resulting in reduced competition. With fewer players in the market, firms may choose to collude or engage in tacit agreements to avoid aggressive competition. This collusion can result in coordinated pricing strategies, output restrictions, and the sharing of market information, further solidifying their market dominance.

Limited Consumer Choice: In an oligopolistic market, consumer options are often limited to the products or services offered by a few dominant firms. The high costs associated with market entry deter new businesses from entering the market and introducing alternative offerings. As a result, consumers may have fewer choices, leading to potential monopolistic practices, higher prices, and a lack of diversity in the market.

Slower Innovation: The dominance of established firms in oligopolies can hinder innovation and technological progress. With limited competition and fewer incentives to invest in research and development, firms may become complacent and prioritize maintaining market control over advancing new technologies or products. This can stifle innovation, slow down technological advancements, and impede overall market growth.


While several factors contribute to the formation of oligopolies, the high costs associated with starting a competing business play a significant role in enabling this market structure. The capital-intensive nature of certain industries, substantial R&D expenses, and the challenges of establishing a brand presence create formidable barriers to entry. As a result, a small number of firms gain market power, leading to reduced competition, limited consumer choice, and potentially slower innovation. Understanding the impact of high costs on market dynamics is crucial for policymakers, regulators, and aspiring entrepreneurs aiming to promote a more competitive and diverse marketplace.

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