<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Tying sales happen when a customer is required to buy one product only if the customer also buys a second product. Tying sales are controversial because they force consumers to purchase a product that they may not actually want or need. Further, the additional, required products are not necessarily advantageous to the customer. Suppose that to purchase a popular DVD, the store required that you also purchase a portable TV of a certain model. These products are only loosely related, thus there is no reason to make the purchase of one contingent on the other. Even if a customer was interested in a portable TV, the tying to a particular model prevents the customer from having the option of selecting one from the numerous types available in the market. A related, but not identical, concept is called bundling    , where two or more products are sold as one. Bundling typically offers an advantage for the consumer by allowing them to acquire multiple products or services for a better price. For example, several cable companies allow customers to buy products like cable, internet, and a phone line through a special price available through bundling. Customers are also welcome to purchase these products separately, but the price of bundling is usually more appealing.

In some cases, tying sales and bundling can be viewed as anticompetitive. However, in other cases they may be legal and even common. It is common for people to purchase season tickets to a sports team or a set of concerts so that they can be guaranteed tickets to the few contests or shows that are most popular and likely to sell out. Computer software manufacturers may often bundle together a number of different programs, even when the buyer wants only a few of the programs. Think about the software that is included in a new computer purchase, for example.

Recall from the chapter on Monopoly that predatory pricing    occurs when the existing firm (or firms) reacts to a new firm by dropping prices very low, until the new firm is driven out of the market, at which point the existing firm raises prices again. This pattern of pricing is aimed at deterring the entry of new firms into the market. But in practice, it can be hard to figure out when pricing should be considered predatory. Say that American Airlines is flying between two cities, and a new airline starts flying between the same two cities, at a lower price. If American Airlines cuts its price to match the new entrant, is this predatory pricing? Or is it just market competition at work? A commonly proposed rule is that if a firm is selling for less than its average variable cost—that is, at a price where it should be shutting down—then there is evidence for predatory pricing. But calculating in the real world what costs are variable and what costs are fixed is often not obvious, either.

The Microsoft antitrust case embodies many of these gray areas in restrictive practices, as the next Clear it Up shows.

Did microsoft ® Engage in anticompetitive and restrictive practices?

The most famous restrictive practices case of recent years was a series of lawsuits by the U.S. government against Microsoft—lawsuits that were encouraged by some of Microsoft’s competitors. All sides admitted that Microsoft’s Windows program had a near-monopoly position in the market for the software used in general computer operating systems. All sides agreed that the software had many satisfied customers. All sides agreed that the capabilities of computer software that was compatible with Windows—both software produced by Microsoft and that produced by other companies—had expanded dramatically in the 1990s. Having a monopoly    or a near-monopoly is not necessarily illegal in and of itself, but in cases where one company controls a great deal of the market, antitrust regulators look at any allegations of restrictive practices with special care.

The antitrust regulators argued that Microsoft had gone beyond profiting from its software innovations and its dominant position in the software market for operating systems, and had tried to use its market power in operating systems software to take over other parts of the software industry. For example, the government argued that Microsoft had engaged in an anticompetitive form of exclusive dealing by threatening computer makers that, if they did not leave another firm’s software off their machines (specifically, Netscape’s Internet browser), then Microsoft would not sell them its operating system software. Microsoft was accused by the government antitrust regulators of tying together its Windows operating system software, where it had a monopoly, with its Internet Explorer browser software, where it did not have a monopoly, and thus using this bundling as an anticompetitive tool. Microsoft was also accused of a form of predatory pricing; namely, giving away certain additional software products for free as part of Windows, as a way of driving out the competition from other makers of software.

In April 2000, a federal court held that Microsoft’s behavior had crossed the line into unfair competition, and recommended that the company be broken into two competing firms. However, that penalty was overturned on appeal, and in November 2002 Microsoft reached a settlement with the government that it would end its restrictive practices.

The concept of restrictive practices is continually evolving, as firms seek new ways to earn profits and government regulators define what is permissible and what is not. A situation where the law is evolving and changing is always somewhat troublesome, since laws are most useful and fair when firms know what they are in advance. In addition, since the law is open to interpretation, competitors who are losing out in the market can accuse successful firms of anticompetitive restrictive practices, and try to win through government regulation what they have failed to accomplish in the market. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are, of course, aware of these issues, but there is no easy way to resolve them.

Key concepts and summary

Firms are blocked by antitrust authorities from openly colluding to form a cartel that will reduce output and raise prices. Companies sometimes attempt to find other ways around these restrictions and, consequently, many antitrust cases involve restrictive practices that can reduce competition in certain circumstances, like tie-in sales, bundling, and predatory pricing.

Questions & Answers

A comprehensive note on Agriculture
Ezekiel Reply
what do we mean price elasticity in other words
Blessed Reply
adam smith views in economics
Renatus Reply
what is a market demand schedule
Blessed Reply
What is demand curve
mohamed Reply
Types of demand curve
mohamed
demand curve is a showing the aggregate of demand whether falling from right to the left in the table above
BULAMA
demand curve is the graphical representation of various quantities of a commodity bought at various prices
Blessed
What is demand
mohamed
What is the formula for calculating elasticity
Hafsat Reply
what is demand
Anefor Reply
demand is the quantity of commodity that consumers wil be able and wiling to buy at a given price at a given time
Delly
what is international trade?
Friday Reply
it is the exchange of goods and services across international borders.
Tweneboah
what is taxation
Eunice Reply
the definition of economic by Adam Smith
Geon Reply
Adam Smith define economic as the science of wealth
Hafsat
What is enconomics
mohamed
what is meant by pisp in economics?
Amara Reply
payment initiation service provider
Khuselo
what is demand
Joy Reply
demand
Demand refers to the consumers' desire to purchase goods at given prices. Demand can mean either demand for a specific good or aggregate demand for the total of all goods in an economy.
What is economc
Joseph Reply
What is economc
nahurira
what is production
Tiku
What is Economic
Vicky Reply
What's the price index of consumption?
Pun Reply

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now




Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Principles of economics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask