|Industry/Market||Description||Monopoly Example||Impact and Implications|
|Utilities||Provision of essential services.||A local utility company, such as a single electricity provider or water supply company, that has exclusive rights to serve a specific geographic area.||Monopoly utilities often lead to regulated pricing, as they provide essential services, but may lack competitive incentives for innovation and cost control.|
|Internet Search||Online search engines.||Google, as the dominant search engine, controls the majority of the global search market share, making it a de facto monopoly.||Google’s search dominance raises concerns about data privacy, antitrust issues, and potential bias in search results.|
|Operating Systems||Computer operating systems.||Microsoft’s Windows OS has historically held a monopoly in the personal computer market, with a vast majority of PCs using its operating system.||Microsoft faced antitrust lawsuits in the past for using its dominance to stifle competition, leading to regulatory action.|
|Pharmaceutical Patents||Medicines with exclusive patents.||Pharmaceutical companies that hold exclusive patents for essential medications, preventing generic alternatives.||Monopolistic pricing of patented drugs can result in high healthcare costs and limited access to essential treatments for patients.|
|Diamond Mining||Extraction and sale of diamonds.||De Beers historically controlled the majority of the world’s diamond production, leading to a diamond mining monopoly.||De Beers’ control led to price manipulation and concerns about ethical practices in the diamond industry.|
|Postal Services||Mail and package delivery services.||National postal services in many countries, such as the USPS in the United States, hold monopolies on mail delivery within their respective jurisdictions.||Monopoly postal services often face financial challenges and may require government subsidies to maintain universal service.|
|Satellite Television||Broadcast of satellite TV signals.||In some regions, satellite TV providers like DirecTV or Dish Network may have a monopoly or near-monopoly on satellite television services.||Satellite TV monopolies can limit consumer choices and pricing competition in the television entertainment market.|
|Major League Sports||Professional sports leagues.||Major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB in the United States often operate as monopolies, with exclusive control over their respective sports.||Monopolistic control allows leagues to negotiate lucrative TV deals but can also lead to labor disputes and antitrust scrutiny.|
|Public Transportation||Local public transportation services.||In some cities, a single public transportation agency or company may have a monopoly on bus, subway, or tram services.||Monopoly public transportation providers can lead to service inefficiencies and may require government oversight to ensure affordability and accessibility.|
|Tobacco Industry||Production and sale of tobacco products.||Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco dominate the global tobacco industry, often operating as near-monopolies.||The tobacco industry faces extensive regulation due to concerns about public health and smoking-related illnesses.|
|Social Media||Online social networking platforms.||Facebook, as the parent company of platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, has a significant monopoly in the social media industry.||Facebook’s dominance raises concerns about data privacy, market power, and potential antitrust actions.|
|Local Cable TV||Cable television services in specific regions.||In some areas, a single cable TV provider may have a monopoly on cable television services, limiting consumer choices.||Cable TV monopolies may result in higher prices and limited competition in local TV markets.|
|Railway Systems||Rail transportation services.||In some regions, a single railway company may have a monopoly on rail transportation, controlling both freight and passenger services.||Railway monopolies can lead to pricing concerns, limited access for competitors, and government regulation to ensure fair access and pricing.|
|Currency Printing||Production of a nation’s currency.||National mints and central banks often have a monopoly on currency production, ensuring the integrity of a country’s currency.||Currency printing monopolies are necessary to prevent counterfeiting but require strict security measures and government oversight.|
|Healthcare Services||Healthcare providers in specific regions.||In certain areas, a single healthcare provider or hospital system may have a near-monopoly on healthcare services, limiting patient choice.||Healthcare monopolies may lead to higher healthcare costs and concerns about healthcare quality and accessibility.|
|Academic Publishing||Publishing of academic journals and research.||A few major academic publishers, such as Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, and Springer, dominate the academic publishing industry.||Academic publishing monopolies have led to high subscription costs for universities and libraries, limiting access to research.|
|Space Launch Services||Commercial satellite launch services.||Companies like SpaceX have gained a dominant position in the commercial space launch industry, potentially leading to a near-monopoly.||Dominance in space launch services can impact pricing, access to space, and competition in the emerging space economy.|
|Music Streaming Services||Online music streaming platforms.||Spotify is a prominent example, with a significant market share in music streaming, potentially approaching a monopoly in some regions.||Dominance in music streaming can affect artist compensation, platform exclusivity, and competition in the music industry.|
A monopoly is a market structure characterized by the presence of a single, dominant individual or enterprise that is the sole supplier of a product or service. Monopolies are associated with a lack of competition and an absence of viable product substitutes. As a consequence, the company can sell products and services at prices that result in substantial profits.
These market conditions can arise by themselves or be instituted by the government to build infrastructure or encourage economic growth. Vertical integration can also encourage a monopoly to form. In short, this occurs when the supply chain of a company is integrated with and owned by that company.
Not all monopolies are illegal, with many businesses cornering the market simply because they offer a superior product. A firm will only attract the attention of regulators if it attained monopoly status via predatory or exclusionary conduct.
With that said, let’s take look at some of the many historic and modern monopoly examples.
Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world thanks to its ability to build a business ecosystem on top of the iPhone.
The company today controls most of the mobile Internet pipelines, and it collects a 30% tax on top of it.
Apple is the perfect example of modern tech monopoly, which is hidden to the view.
In fact, if you compare Android to Apple’s operating system, you get a majority stake in the hand of Android.
However, Android (owned by Google) is a fragmented ecosystem (and by the way, Google is the other mobile monopolist) made of many devices.
Apple instead consolidates all of its stakes into the iPhone, which contributed to most of Apple’s revenues and profits.
The iPhone is at the core of Apple’s business model.
And by combining hardware, software, and marketplace, that is how Apple built one of the most powerful tech monopolies of our times.
Standard Oil was an American producer, transporter, and refiner of oil founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1870.
Rockefeller used a variety of tactics to purchase as many competitor refineries as he could and entered into secret deals with railroad companies to reduce shipping costs. These efforts resulted in Standard Oil controlling 90% of the oil refining market in the United States after little more than a decade in operation.
Standard Oil’s rise to prominence made it the first great industrial company in the world to become a monopoly. However, it was ultimately sued by the U.S. Justice Department in 1909 under antitrust laws and was ordered to break up into 34 independent entities two years later.
De Beers Group
De Beers Group is a corporation that specializes in the mining and trading of diamonds. It is also a manufacturer of diamonds for industrial purposes. It was founded by British politician and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1888.
The company had a monopoly in the diamond trade for almost 100 years before excess supply from Australian, Canadian, and Russian mines increased competition. From a peak of around 85%, De Beers is now the second-largest distributor at a more meager 30%.
Luxottica, formally Luxottica Group PIVA, is a vertically-integrated Italian eyewear manufacturer and designer that was founded by Leonard Del Vecchio in 1961.
Luxottica merged with French optics company Essilor in January 2017, with the resultant entity from the $50 billion deal controlling more than 25% of global eyewear sales.
Brands under the Luxottica banner include Ray-Ban, Armani Exchange, Chanel, Versace, Prada, and Ralph Lauren. The company also owns multiple insurance companies and related optical departments at department stores such as Target and Sears. It has been criticized for monopolistic practices with price markups approaching 1000%.
The YKK Group is a Japanese conglomerate founded by Tadao Yoshida in 1934.
The group is the world’s largest manufacturer of zippers, which are used in products such as dresses, jeans, jackets, camping equipment, and boating equipment.
After the Second World War, the conglomerate purchased an automated zipper manufacturing machine from the United States. Over time, it continued to innovate and took steps to control every aspect of the manufacturing process itself. In a 1998 Los Angeles Times article, it was explained that The YKK Group “smelts its own brass, concocts its own polyester, weaves and color-dyes cloth for its zipper tapes…” and so forth.
Despite the presence of hundreds of cheaper Chinese manufacturers, YKK produces around 50% of all zippers sold globally. This equates to about 7 billion units.
Saudi Aramco is a petroleum and natural gas company founded in 1933 and is the operator of the world’s most extensive hydrocarbon network. The company also owns the largest onshore and offshore oil fields in addition to a colossal natural gas reserve.
Saudi Aramco has a monopoly on oil production in Saudi Arabia and the company is also a significant exporter of the commodity. Having said that, the company’s dominant presence in the oil industry has been eroded to some extent by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift toward renewable energy sources.
- A monopoly is a market structure characterized by the presence of a single, dominant individual or enterprise that is the sole supplier of a product or service.
- Standard Oil was the world’s first great industrial monopoly, at one point controlling 90% of the oil market in the United States. De Beers Group had a similar stranglehold on diamonds for almost a century before excess supply reduced its market share.
- Luxottica is an Italian vertically-integrated eyewear brand that controls more than a quarter of global eyewear sales. The YKK Group and Saudi Aramco have monopolies in fossil fuel production and zipper sales respectively.
- Monopoly Definition: A monopoly refers to a market structure where a single dominant individual or enterprise holds exclusive control over the supply of a product or service. This lack of competition enables the company to set prices and generate substantial profits.
- Formation of Monopolies:
- Monopolies can arise naturally or be established by the government for economic growth or infrastructure development.
- Vertical integration, where a company owns and controls its entire supply chain, can contribute to monopoly formation.
- Not all monopolies are illegal; some may emerge due to superior product offerings.
- Examples of Historic and Modern Monopolies:
- Apple: Apple’s ecosystem, primarily driven by the iPhone, has allowed it to create a tech monopoly through control of mobile Internet pipelines and a comprehensive product-service integration.
- Standard Oil: Founded by John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil achieved a monopoly in the oil industry by acquiring competitors and securing deals with railroads. It was eventually broken up due to antitrust laws.
- De Beers Group: This corporation, founded by Cecil Rhodes, held a diamond trade monopoly for nearly a century. Competition from other mines reduced its dominance to around 30%.
- Luxottica: An Italian eyewear conglomerate, Luxottica controls over 25% of global eyewear sales through brands like Ray-Ban and Armani Exchange.
- YKK: YKK Group, a Japanese conglomerate, produces around 50% of all zippers globally, maintaining its monopoly through vertical integration and control over the entire manufacturing process.
- Saudi Aramco: This petroleum and gas company holds a monopoly on oil production in Saudi Arabia and owns extensive oil and gas reserves. It has faced challenges due to the shift towards renewable energy sources.
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