The sales organization of the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlen-Syndikat (RWKS) on the national market, 1896-1933
The Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlen-Syndikat (RWKS), founded in 1893, exerted a decisive influence on the pricing and sales policies of the German coal market for several decades, until the cessation of its activities after the Second World War. An essential feature of the syndicate, the highest stage of a cartel, was the incorporation of its own sales organization. This research project aims to investigate the significance of the sales organization for the RWKS up to the beginning of the 1930s.
After the founding of the RWKS, the affiliated mines handed over most of the coal they produced to the cartel for resale. In the subsequent stages of distribution, however, the coal merchants continued to fight a fierce price war. From 1896 onwards, previously independent coal merchants began to merge into syndicate trading companies. Among these trading companies, the Rheinische Kohlenhandels- und Rhederei-Gesellschaft mbH (Rhine Coal Trading and Shipping Company), later to become the Kohlenkontor Weyhenmeyer & Co., had a special position. This company was not only granted the sole right to sell Ruhr coal on the highly competitive Southern German market, but also the exclusive right to sell the Ruhr coal which was shipped on the Rhine. All the syndicate trading companies were given the sole right to sell Ruhr coal products in their allocated sales territories, with the exception of supplies to bulk consumers. The business policies of these companies depended on whether they were operating in a contested or uncontested sales territory. In uncontested markets, Ruhr coal had a monopoly. In the contested sales territories, on the other hand, the RWKS products had to deal with competition from other coal-mining districts in Germany and abroad. Numerous syndicate mines, however, had built up their own sales organizations parallel to the syndicate trading companies, particularly during the First World War, or had gained influence over existing trading companies. Their aim was to be able to continue to supply the market seamlessly if the RWKS were to be disbanded, and to secure a better negotiating position for contract extensions in the cartel. In the 1920s, a particularly conflict-laden period for the syndicate, trade-related matters were often at the centre of discussions within the syndicate; these conflicts also led to changes in the structure of the sales organization.The research project aims to examine the significance of the sales organization for the RWKS up to the beginning of the 1930s. Here the focus will be on questions about transaction costs: did the integration of sales into the cartel apparatus bring economic advantages for the individual stakeholders? The cartel’s pricing policies in contested and uncontested sales territories will be compared, as will the role of individual syndicate members, who had different interests as independent producers and as members of the cartel. Of particular interest here is the question of whether the parties involved noticed contractual loopholes, and were able to use these for their own purposes.
Prof. Dr. Dieter Ziegler
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum
Lehrstuhl für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensgeschichte der Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Prof. Dr. Dieter Ziegler)
2011 - 2014