DEFINITION of 'Cartel'

An organization created from a formal agreement between a group of producers of a good or service, to regulate supply in an effort to regulate or manipulate prices. A cartel is a collection of businesses or countries that act together as a single producer and agree to influence prices for certain goods and services by controlling production and marketing. A cartel has less command over an industry than a monopoly - a situation where a single group or company owns all or nearly all of a given product or service's market. In the United States, cartels are illegal; however, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - the world's largest cartel - is protected by U.S. foreign trade laws.


Amid controversy in the mid-2000s, the U.S. Congress attempted to penalize OPEC as an illegal cartel but the effort was blocked over concerns of retaliation and potential negative effects on U.S. businesses. Despite the fact that OPEC is considered by many to be a cartel, members of OPEC have maintained it is not a cartel at all, but an international organization with a legal, permanent and necessary mission.

  1. Supply

    A fundamental economic concept that describes the total amount ...
  2. International Labor Organization ...

    A United Nations agency that strives to serve as a uniting force ...
  3. Organization Of Petroleum Exporting ...

    An organization consisting of the world's major oil-exporting ...
  4. Price Rigging

    An illegal action performed by a group of conspiring businesses ...
  5. Oligopoly

    A situation in which a particular market is controlled by a small ...
  6. Price Fixing

    Establishing the price of a product or service, rather than allowing ...
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