Definition of cartel in English:



  • 1An association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.

    ‘the Colombian drug cartels’
    • ‘They organize a cartel for the purpose of raising the price for the product in question.’
    • ‘International drug cartels - made up largely of Mexican nationals - seem especially drawn to the bounty.’
    • ‘At the end of the war, the Allies had forced the deconcentration of the coal and steel industries in Germany, and the break-up of the cartels that had restricted competition.’
    • ‘He finds little evidence for effects of export cartels on export prices or volume.’
    • ‘Almost certainly bad news for its competition - drug cartels are notoriously touchy about people cutting into their business.’
    • ‘As with the pure monopoly, companies would join a cartel in order to try to protect themselves from the harmful consequences of competition.’
    • ‘One industry source claimed that price fixing and the operation of cartels was widespread in the business.’
    • ‘International drug cartels constitute their own society in numerous ways.’
    • ‘‘Leaving the fare cuts and increases to bus companies could result in price cartels led by the companies,’ he added.’
    • ‘In the last 10 years, we have uncovered many cartels, many secret price fixing agreements.’
    • ‘This policy of keeping inventories low will deny consumers a buffer against any production cutbacks that the cartel may make if prices weaken.’
    • ‘If natural gas producers form a cartel, they could drive world prices even higher’
    • ‘First, the influence of producer cartels on prices of primary products can be great, and yet not reflect scarcity changes.’
    • ‘As cartel pricing crumbled, imports flooded in in large quantities for the first time.’
    • ‘The normal purpose of any cartel is to keep prices high by controlling supply and demand.’
    • ‘US research shows that cartels raise the prices of the affected goods and services by 10 per cent on average.’
    • ‘The swirl of rumour includes reports that hold the powerful and influential drug cartels responsible.’
    • ‘Both groups are known to work with and protect the drug cartels.’
    • ‘In their attempts to stem cut-throat price competition, railway leaders repeatedly formed cartels to set prices and allocate traffic.’
    • ‘In the absence of a minimum support price, trade cartels in the towns have continued to profit by continuously lowering the price paid to the Gujjars.’
    gang, syndicate, mob, band, organization, confederation, confederacy, federation, union, association, circle, society, combine, consortium, alliance, league, cabal, cell, coterie, crew, junta
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    1. 1.1historical A coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties intended to promote a mutual interest.
      • ‘The episode of the cartel transformed political life.’
      • ‘As is often the case in the cosy cartel of party politics, the bigger parties are more than happy to retain the status quo.’
      • ‘The party established a de facto political cartel that excluded other parties from power.’
      • ‘The country is poor, and has a history of sclerotic and unresponsive government run by a political cartel.’
      • ‘The two main parties have become a cartel, operating a tacit understanding not to broach any important issue.’


Late 19th century: from German Kartell, from French cartel, from Italian cartello, diminutive of carta, from Latin carta (see card). It was originally used to refer to the coalition of the Conservatives and National Liberal parties in Germany (1887), and hence any political combination; later to denote a trade agreement (early 20th century).