Cartel Identification in Spatial Markets: An Analysis of the East German Cement Market
In 2003, the German cement industry was fined more than six hundred million Euros for, allegedly, having fixed prices and quantities in the four regional German cement markets. When this case was finally resolved by the courts in 2009, the fine was reduced by a large amount as the German Antitrust Commission (GAC) was unable to provide sufficient evidence on the level excessive pricing by the cartelists. This paper takes up again the case of the East German cement cartel that ended in early 2002 and shows that the quota agreement which was established in the mid 1990s was economically inactive. From the perspective of the individual players, the rationale of preserving the cartel can only be explained by limited knowledge of the true market forces. Based on a spatial approach for the years 1997 to 2002, the regional price-setting behavior and its changes can be analyzed against the situation. Econometric analysis suggests that competition was already rather strong in the cartel years as transport costs and rebate systems were used to fine-tune offers. Strategic imports from post-communist countries into the East German market as well as supply from medium-sized enterprises not included in the cartel exerted pressure on the markets.