Difference Wiki

Monopoly vs. Monopolistic Competition: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 19, 2023
A monopoly exists when a single company dominates a market, while monopolistic competition occurs when many companies sell similar but not identical products.

Key Differences

Monopoly pertains to a market structure where a single company holds the entire market share, providing a unique product or service without any close substitutes. In contrast, monopolistic competition describes a scenario where numerous firms compete in the same market, but each offers a slightly differentiated product. Therefore, under monopoly, consumers have limited choices, essentially just one. Whereas in monopolistic competition, consumers can choose from a variety of similar yet not identical products.
Monopoly often results in less consumer sovereignty, as there's no competition pushing the monopolist to cater to consumer preferences. On the flip side, monopolistic competition showcases a mix of monopoly and perfect competition features. Each firm in monopolistic competition behaves like a mini-monopolist regarding its specific product, while still facing competition from other similar products.
Pricing in a monopoly is determined by the sole producer, often leading to higher prices and limited production. In monopolistic competition, while firms have some power to set their prices, they are still influenced by the competitive pressure of other firms in the market. This can often lead to more consumer-friendly prices compared to a pure monopoly.
A monopoly's existence is typically due to barriers like patents, high startup costs, or exclusive access to resources. This makes it hard or even impossible for other firms to enter the market. However, monopolistic competition characteristically has low entry and exit barriers, meaning firms can easily enter or leave the market based on profitability.
When it comes to innovation and product diversity, monopoly might not have a significant incentive to innovate unless it brings further cost savings or increased demand. In monopolistic competition, the inherent product differentiation often drives firms to innovate and diversify their product offerings to gain a competitive edge.

Comparison Chart

Number of Producers

One firm dominates
Many firms compete

Product Differentiation

Unique product with no close substitutes
Similar but differentiated products

Pricing Power

Significant power to set prices
Some power, but influenced by competition

Entry and Exit Barriers

High barriers preventing other firms from entering
Low barriers, firms can easily enter or leave

Consumer Choice

Limited choice (often just one)
Variety of choices among similar, but not identical, products

Monopoly and Monopolistic Competition Definitions


A market dominated by a single company.
The local utility company has a monopoly on electricity provision.

Monopolistic Competition

Firms have some, but not significant, pricing power.
In monopolistic competition, a coffee shop might set its prices slightly higher due to its unique flavors.


Absence of competition in a specific market.
Due to high entry barriers, the company maintained its monopoly.

Monopolistic Competition

Firms compete on product features, quality, and marketing.
Smartphone companies in monopolistic competition constantly innovate to outdo each other.


The sole provider in a market.
In some towns, there's a monopoly for cable services.

Monopolistic Competition

Market structure with easy entry and exit but product differentiation.
In the world of fashion, monopolistic competition is rampant due to brand differentiation.


A situation where one firm sets the market price.
With their monopoly, they could dictate the price consumers paid.

Monopolistic Competition

A market with many sellers offering differentiated products.
The restaurant industry is a good example of monopolistic competition.


Exclusive control over a product or service.
Their patented technology gave them a monopoly in the industry.

Monopolistic Competition

Competition among firms with similar but not identical products.
Different brands of toothpaste represent monopolistic competition.


Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service
"Monopoly frequently ... arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals" (Milton Friedman).


A company, group, or individual having exclusive control over a commercial activity.


How does monopolistic competition differ?

Monopolistic competition has many firms selling similar but differentiated products.

Why might monopolistic competition lead to more advertising?

Firms in monopolistic competition differentiate their products through branding and advertising.

What is a monopoly?

A monopoly is a market dominated by a single company without competition.

Can a monopoly set any price they want?

Theoretically, yes, but they also have to consider consumer demand and potential regulations.

Is it easy to enter a monopolistic competition market?

Typically, yes, as there are lower entry and exit barriers compared to a monopoly.

How do firms in monopolistic competition compete?

They compete on product features, quality, prices, marketing, and more.

Why don't monopolies have close competitors?

Due to high barriers like patents, exclusive resources, or significant startup costs.

What is product differentiation in monopolistic competition?

It's when products are made to appear different, even if they serve similar functions.

How do governments typically respond to monopolies?

They might regulate them, break them up, or allow them if they serve the public interest.

Why don't monopolistic competitors have significant market power?

Because while they differentiate their products, consumers still have many close substitutes available.

How do firms in monopolistic competition differentiate their products?

Through branding, quality, features, marketing, and other strategies.

Do monopolies and monopolistic competition exist in the real world?

Yes, many industries exhibit traits of either monopoly or monopolistic competition.

Which market structure is more prevalent, monopoly or monopolistic competition?

Monopolistic competition is more common as many industries have multiple firms competing with differentiated products.

Are consumers better off in monopolistic competition?

Generally, yes, because they have more choices and potentially better prices.

Can monopolies be beneficial?

Sometimes, if they lead to economies of scale and reduced prices, but they can also reduce consumer choice.

Are all monopolies bad?

Not necessarily; regulated monopolies can provide essential services efficiently.

Do monopolies innovate?

They might not have as much incentive as firms in competitive markets, but some still innovate.

Is monopolistic competition efficient?

It can lead to excess capacity and branding costs, but also to product diversity and innovation.

Are monopolies always the result of market failures?

Not always. Some arise naturally due to economies of scale or control over a unique resource.

Can monopolistic competition lead to market failures?

Potentially, if it leads to misallocation of resources or excessive advertising costs.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons