Export Prices and Export Cartels (Webb-Pomerene Associations)

By Milton Gilbert; Paul D. Dickens | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III

SCOPE OF THE FIELD STUDY

It is evident from this brief summary of previous studies of the problem that available knowledge of the subject would be inadequate for the Committee's needs. In addition to inaccuracy and inconclusiveness, the data from previous studies do not cover current business practices. Nor are they addressed precisely to the problem in a way that makes them adequate for present purposes. It was, therefore, necessary to make a field survey of the current price policies of business that would contrast domestic and export prices.

For two reasons it was considered essential that the information industry could furnish be obtained by personal interview with the appropriate business executives rather than by relying upon a mailed questionnaire. The probability is that returns to a questionnaire would come primarily from firms which did not have lower export prices and thus bias the sample. Furthermore, the character of the information required is such as to make it unlikely that accuracy could be obtained except by interview. This is due to the difficulty of framing a set of questions which would leave no doubt of the precise information desired with resulting indefiniteness in the answers.

The data were obtained through conversations with the executives of each business concern rather than by sifting the evidence out of the business records. The reasons for this are that an executive can answer in a short time questions which the records could reveal only after weeks and even months of work and, furthermore, certain information was desired which would not appear in the records. As the study was designed to be qualitative in character, rather than an actual statistical measurement of differences in prices, the desired data could more quickly be obtained by this method.

In order that business executives might feel free to speak frankly about the policies of their firms and be under no apprehension of unfavorable reactions upon their particular business, it was guaranteed that all information provided the investigator would be confidential as to the source, and that nothing would be published to reveal the identity of any firm. It was relatively easy for the investigator to arrange the order of his questions so as to assure himself that they were being answered to the best ability of the business executive. It must be emphasized, however, that the analysis of the cases presented in the study and the conclusions reached by the investigator were made independently and are not the undigested opinions of business executives. In some cases the persons interviewed might not agree with the conclusions of the investigator.

On this basis a study was made of the practices of what might best be called 76 cases. They are called eases rather than companies or corporations because the study often cuts across the complications of corporate structure. The purpose of this classification was to in-

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