What Is A Price Floor? Price Floor In A Nutshell

A price floor is a control placed on a good, service, or commodity to stop its price from falling below a certain limit. Therefore, a price floor is the lowest legal price a good, service, or commodity can sell for in the market. One of the best-known examples of a price floor is the minimum wage, a control set by the government to ensure employees receive an income that affords them a basic standard of living.

Concept– A Price Floor is a government-imposed or industry-set minimum price that cannot be legally charged for a particular good or service. It is designed to protect producers, maintain income levels, and ensure a minimum standard of living. Price floors are often set above the equilibrium market price.
Key Characteristics– Price Floors exhibit the following characteristics: – Minimum Price: They establish a minimum price level that sellers are allowed to charge. – Government Intervention: Often, price floors are imposed by governments as a form of market regulation. – Surpluses: When the floor price is set above the equilibrium price, it can result in surpluses because the quantity supplied exceeds the quantity demanded. – Impact on Producers: Price floors benefit producers by ensuring they receive a minimum price for their goods. – Consumer Effects: Consumers may face higher prices as a result of price floors, which can lead to reduced consumer surplus.
Purpose and Goals– Price Floors are implemented with several goals in mind: – Income Support: To provide support to producers, especially in agriculture, by guaranteeing a minimum income level. – Market Stability: To prevent prices from falling too low during periods of excess supply. – Quality Standards: To maintain quality standards by discouraging the sale of low-quality goods at very low prices. – Resource Allocation: To influence resource allocation by encouraging production in certain industries. – Social Objectives: To achieve social objectives such as protecting small farmers or maintaining a minimum wage for workers.
Examples– Common examples of Price Floors include: – Agricultural Products: Governments often set price floors for crops like wheat, corn, and rice to support farmers. – Minimum Wage Laws: Minimum wage laws establish a wage floor to ensure workers receive a certain level of income. – Rent Control: In some cities, rent control regulations set price floors on rental housing units to protect tenants from excessive rent increases. – Tariffs: Import tariffs can act as price floors by setting a minimum import price for certain goods.
Consequences– Price Floors can have various consequences: – Surpluses: When the floor price is set above the equilibrium price, it can lead to surpluses as producers supply more than consumers demand. – Deadweight Loss: Surpluses can result in deadweight loss, as resources are inefficiently allocated. – Quality Issues: To avoid price floors, producers may focus on quantity over quality, potentially leading to lower-quality products. – Consumer Impact: Consumers may face higher prices for goods affected by price floors. – Government Costs: Government intervention to support the price floor can be costly, including purchases of surplus goods. – Income Support: Price floors can provide income support to producers, which may be a desired outcome.
Adjustment Mechanisms– When price floors lead to surpluses, governments or industries may employ various mechanisms to address the excess supply: – Storage: Goods may be stored and released onto the market when demand increases. – Export Subsidies: Surplus goods may be exported with government subsidies. – Destroy or Donate: In some cases, surplus goods are destroyed or donated to prevent market disruption. – Price Reduction: In industries with price floors, prices may be reduced over time to align with market forces.
Real-World Application– Price Floors are widely used in agricultural policy to support farmers and stabilize food prices. Minimum wage laws set wage floors in many countries to ensure fair compensation for workers. Rent control regulations in some cities establish price floors for rental housing.
Considerations– When implementing Price Floors, governments and industries should consider: – Market Dynamics: Assess the impact on supply and demand dynamics in the specific market. – Consumer Welfare: Evaluate potential effects on consumer welfare, as higher prices may reduce consumer surplus. – Producer Welfare: Consider the benefits to producers and their income levels. – Resource Allocation: Examine the allocation of resources and whether it aligns with broader economic goals.
Alternatives– Price Floors are just one approach to achieving economic and social goals. Alternative methods, such as direct subsidies or income support, may achieve similar objectives without distorting market prices.
Impact on Competition– Price Floors can influence competition by reducing price flexibility and potentially limiting consumer choice.
Ethical Considerations– Ethical considerations in setting price floors include balancing the interests of producers with the potential negative impact on consumers, particularly low-income individuals who may face higher prices.
Regulatory Compliance– Governments must ensure that price floors comply with legal and regulatory frameworks. Industries must adhere to industry-set price floor standards

Understanding price floors

A price floor is also known as a price support since it prevents a price from falling below a certain level.

In the agricultural industry, some countries have enacted laws to reduce volatility in farm prices and by extension, farm income

During periods of low rainfall and low productivity, farmers are protected by the price floor and receive some surety of a basic income.

This is achieved by the government entering the market and purchasing the product to increase demand and keep prices higher.

The United States government, for example, spends around $20 billion on price support subsidiaries which are distributed to about 39% of the nation’s 2.1 million farms.

Price floor types

There are two types of price floor.

1 – Binding price floor 

This is a price floor that is greater than the market equilibrium point where supply equals demand.

In this scenario, the price floor causes an excess of supply in the market but producers will benefit if the higher price they can charge offsets the lower quantity sold. 

Consumers, on the other hand, are disadvantaged because they must pay more for a lower quantity of products.

Non-binding price floors are set lower than the market equilibrium point. As a result, they do not impact the market price or the quantity that is demanded or supplied.

We can then conclude that a price floor is only effective when it is set above the point where supply equals demand.

In other words, a price floor that is set below the equilibrium point will be below market value

Other effects of a price floor on the market

Some of the intended and unintended consequences of a price floor include:

The formation of a black market

When a binding price floor sets prices above the market value, a black market can form since producers are keen to sell their surplus products.

In the NFL, for example, a price floor on season tickets made it difficult for fans to sell them because it was above the price many were prepared to pay.

In response, a black market was created to give ticketholders unrestricted access to buyers.

Exorbitant prices

As we hinted at earlier, consumers often have to pay more for the same product. When a price floor of $10 is set for a $9 pizza, consumers must find an extra $1.

For this reason, price floors are sometimes seen as corporate welfare.

Lower demand

An extension of increased prices is lower demand as consumers seek out substitute goods that are not subject to a price floor.

Excess production

Another consequence of a price floor above the equilibrium point is overproduction.

Producers are encouraged to supply the market with the promise of higher prices, but this causes the demand to increase and a surplus to form.

In the case of the agricultural industry, producers are further incentivized to oversupply the market because they know the government will purchase excess production.

Pricing Floor Examples

  • Minimum Wage: The government sets a minimum wage to ensure that workers are paid a certain amount per hour of work. This serves as a price floor for labor, preventing wages from falling below a specific level.
  • Agricultural Products: Governments may establish price floors for crops to support farmers’ incomes. For instance, a price floor might be set for wheat to ensure farmers receive a fair price, especially during times of low crop yields.
  • Rent Control: In some cities, rent control laws establish price floors for rental properties, preventing landlords from charging rents below a certain threshold to ensure affordable housing options.
  • Milk Pricing: Governments may set a price floor for milk to guarantee dairy farmers a stable income. If market prices drop, the government might step in to purchase excess milk at the price floor.
  • Coffee Pricing: International organizations sometimes implement price floors for coffee to support coffee farmers in developing countries, preventing prices from falling too low due to market fluctuations.
  • Fisheries: In the fishing industry, governments might implement price floors for certain fish species to prevent overfishing and depletion of fish stocks, ensuring the sustainability of the industry.
  • Textile Industry: Price floors can be applied to textiles to support local manufacturers and prevent foreign imports from flooding the market at very low prices.
  • Fuel Pricing: In some countries, governments may set a price floor for gasoline to stabilize prices and protect domestic oil production from becoming economically unviable.
  • Tobacco Pricing: Governments might establish price floors for tobacco to maintain the income of tobacco farmers and prevent drastic declines in tobacco production.
  • Livestock Pricing: Price floors can be set for livestock products like meat or eggs to ensure that producers receive a minimum income for their products.
  • Artificial Diamonds: Organizations in the diamond industry may establish price floors for lab-grown diamonds to maintain a certain level of value and pricing in the market.
  • Antique Market: In some cases, auction houses might set price floors for valuable antique items to ensure that they are not sold below a certain price point.

Key takeaways

  • A price floor is a control placed on a good, service, or commodity to stop its price from falling below a certain limit.
  • There are two types of price floor. In a binding price floor, the control is set above the equilibrium point where supply equals demand. In a non-binding price floor, the control is set below the equilibrium point.
  • The creation of a price floor has various consequences, including the formation of a black market, exorbitant consumer prices, lower demand, and excess production.

Key Highlights

  • Definition and Purpose of Price Floors: A price floor is a regulatory measure implemented on a good, service, or commodity to prevent its price from dropping below a specified level. It establishes a minimum legal price that the item can be sold for in the market. The primary purpose of a price floor is to ensure that producers or sellers receive a certain level of income or compensation.
  • Example: Minimum Wage: One well-known example of a price floor is the minimum wage set by the government to ensure that workers earn a wage that provides them with a basic standard of living.
  • Alternative Term: Price Support: A price floor is also referred to as a “price support” because it prevents prices from falling below a certain threshold, offering support to producers by maintaining a certain price level.
  • Price Floors in Agriculture: Price floors are commonly used in the agricultural industry to stabilize prices and incomes for farmers. Governments may intervene by purchasing surplus products at the price floor level during times of low productivity or market volatility, thereby ensuring farmers a minimum income.
  • Types of Price Floors: There are two types of price floors:
    • Binding Price Floor: This is set above the equilibrium point where supply equals demand. It can lead to an excess supply in the market, potentially benefiting producers if the higher price compensates for the reduced quantity sold. Consumers, however, may be negatively impacted as they pay more for a lower quantity.
    • Non-Binding Price Floor: This is set below the equilibrium point and doesn’t influence the market price or the quantity demanded or supplied.
  • Effects of Price Floors on the Market:
    • Formation of a Black Market: A binding price floor can lead to a black market, where surplus products are sold outside official channels at lower prices that consumers are willing to pay.
    • Exorbitant Prices: Consumers may have to pay more for products due to the price floor, leading to extra costs.
    • Lower Demand: Higher prices resulting from price floors can cause consumers to seek alternatives, reducing demand for the affected goods.
    • Excess Production: Above-equilibrium price floors can incentivize producers to overproduce, resulting in excess supply and potential government intervention to purchase surplus.
  • Incentives for Overproduction: In certain industries like agriculture, price floors can incentivize overproduction as producers anticipate government purchases of surplus goods.

Read Next: Pricing Strategy.

Connected Business Concepts

Revenue Modeling

Revenue model patterns are a way for companies to monetize their business models. A revenue model pattern is a crucial building block of a business model because it informs how the company will generate short-term financial resources to invest back into the business. Thus, the way a company makes money will also influence its overall business model.

Pricing Strategies

A pricing strategy or model helps companies find the pricing formula in fit with their business models. Thus aligning the customer needs with the product type while trying to enable profitability for the company. A good pricing strategy aligns the customer with the company’s long term financial sustainability to build a solid business model.

Dynamic Pricing


Price Sensitivity

Price sensitivity can be explained using the price elasticity of demand, a concept in economics that measures the variation in product demand as the price of the product itself varies. In consumer behavior, price sensitivity describes and measures fluctuations in product demand as the price of that product changes.

Price Elasticity

Price elasticity measures the responsiveness of the quantity demanded or supplied of a good to a change in its price. It can be described as elastic, where consumers are responsive to price changes, or inelastic, where consumers are less responsive to price changes. Price elasticity, therefore, is a measure of how consumers react to the price of products and services.

Premium Pricing

The premium pricing strategy involves a company setting a price for its products that exceeds similar products offered by competitors.

Price Skimming

Price skimming is primarily used to maximize profits when a new product or service is released. Price skimming is a product pricing strategy where a company charges the highest initial price a customer is willing to pay and then lowers the price over time.

Productized Services

Productized services are services that are sold with clearly defined parameters and pricing. In short, that is about taking any product and transforming it into a service. This trend has been strong as the subscription-based economy developed.

Menu Costs

Menu costs describe any cost that a business must absorb when it decides to change its prices. The term itself references restaurants that must incur the cost of reprinting their menus every time they want to increase the price of an item. In an economic context, menu costs are expenses that are incurred whenever a business decides to change its prices.

Price Floor

A price floor is a control placed on a good, service, or commodity to stop its price from falling below a certain limit. Therefore, a price floor is the lowest legal price a good, service, or commodity can sell for in the market. One of the best-known examples of a price floor is the minimum wage, a control set by the government to ensure employees receive an income that affords them a basic standard of living.

Predatory Pricing

Predatory pricing is the act of setting prices low to eliminate competition. Industry dominant firms use predatory pricing to undercut the prices of their competitors to the point where they are making a loss in the short term. Predatory prices help incumbents keep a monopolistic position, by forcing new entrants out of the market.

Price Ceiling

A price ceiling is a price control or limit on how high a price can be charged for a product, service, or commodity. Price ceilings are limits imposed on the price of a product, service, or commodity to protect consumers from prohibitively expensive items. These limits are usually imposed by the government but can also be set in the resale price maintenance (RPM) agreement between a product manufacturer and its distributors. 

Bye-Now Effect

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.

Anchoring Effect

The anchoring effect describes the human tendency to rely on an initial piece of information (the “anchor”) to make subsequent judgments or decisions. Price anchoring, then, is the process of establishing a price point that customers can reference when making a buying decision.

Pricing Setter

A price maker is a player who sets the price, independently from what the market does. The price setter is the firm with the influence, market power, and differentiation to be able to set the price for the whole market, thus charging more and yet still driving substantial sales without losing market shares.

Economies of Scale

In Economics, Economies of Scale is a theory for which, as companies grow, they gain cost advantages. More precisely, companies manage to benefit from these cost advantages as they grow, due to increased efficiency in production. Thus, as companies scale and increase production, a subsequent decrease in the costs associated with it will help the organization scale further.

Diseconomies of Scale

In Economics, a Diseconomy of Scale happens when a company has grown so large that its costs per unit will start to increase. Thus, losing the benefits of scale. That can happen due to several factors arising as a company scales. From coordination issues to management inefficiencies and lack of proper communication flows.

Network Effects

network effect is a phenomenon in which as more people or users join a platform, the more the value of the service offered by the platform improves for those joining afterward.

Negative Network Effects

In a negative network effect as the network grows in usage or scale, the value of the platform might shrink. In platform business models network effects help the platform become more valuable for the next user joining. In negative network effects (congestion or pollution) reduce the value of the platform for the next user joining. 

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