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Price ceilings are limits on the amount that can be charged for a specific product or service. In many cases, a price ceiling is imposed by a government, in an effort to correct some issue with the general economy while also protecting the interests of consumers in general. However, it is not unusual for some industries to impose a price ceiling as a means of promoting the further development of that industry. The use of this second application often has a great deal to do with the relationship between the supply and demand for the product.
When the price ceiling is a figure imposed by a government, a product or service that is considered essential is usually involved. For example, a government may impose a limit on the amount that power companies can charge customers for each unit of energy consumed. The idea is to protect the interests of consumers by preventing suppliers from charging rates or fees that are likely to make it impossible for consumers to afford something considered essential to an equitable standard of living. In the United States, it is not unusual for state level regulatory agencies to monitor and impose price ceilings on utility costs.
The imposition of a price ceiling can help stabilize a particular market, as well as have a beneficial impact on the economy in general. The strategy often prompts suppliers that were charging exorbitant rates for their products to either cut back on production or possibly abandon the market altogether. This leaves suppliers who are able to offer products of acceptable quality at a price consumers can afford. At the same time, the ability to purchase the products at reasonable prices prompts consumers to do so. They also have more resources to spend on other purchases, which in turn increases demand in several markets and has the effect of stimulating the economy.
There is also sometimes a limit on how low a price can be charged for a good or service that is considered a necessity. While this figure is often referred to as a price floor, it is sometimes called a low price ceiling. As with the limit on higher prices, this limit on lower prices is intended to prevent the creation of a monopoly within an industry, an event that would undermine the ability of some companies to be competitive. Ultimately, failure to observe price floors as well as ceilings can have the effect of limiting consumer options, a state of affairs that is not in the best interests of consumers or the general economy of the area where they reside.