Which Arguments are most Persuasive of the Seriousness of Cartels: An Experimental Study

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Peter Dijkstra
Loet van Stekelenburg


Cartels, Public attitudes, Experiment


The effectiveness of competition authorities is partly dependent on the public attitude towards cartels. In Dijkstra and Van Stekelenburg (2021), we found that the Dutch public considers cartels to be less serious offenses than comparable economic infringements. If the general public better understands why cartel behavior is bad, it might improve firm compliance and could help in receiving more tip-offs about potential cartels. Competition authorities could attain this by investing in raising the negative attitude of the public towards cartels: we therefore examine which arguments are most persuasive in the Netherlands. The most persuasive arguments are on overpricing, consumer deception, cartel secrecy and conformism. Subsequently, we run an experiment to test which term and line of argumentation are most effective communicating the seriousness of cartels. We find that the term “competition fraud” is more effective in conveying the problematic nature of cartels than the traditional term “cartel”, resulting in a more negative attitude among respondents in this condition. Again, arguments on overpricing are most convincing and result in more negative attitude towards cartels and stronger support for government action than other lines of argumentation.