Antitrust laws aim to promote market economics and healthy competition in every market. They help in checking the abuses that sometimes arise in different markets. The Federal Government, as well as most states, enforce antitrust laws. They mainly prohibit business practices that unreasonably deprive consumers of the benefits of competition, resulting in higher prices.
Knowing The Antitrust Laws In The US
There are several federal and state laws that aim to protect commerce throughout the nation. These include:
The Sherman Antitrust Act
The federal government enacted this antitrust law in 1890. It prevents interstate and foreign traders from fixing prices, rigging bids, and allocating customers. It punishes such offenses as criminal felonies.
Monopolizing any part of interstate commerce is a crime as per this act. If a business controls the market for a product or service by suppressing competition and not because its product or service is superior, it is called an unlawful monopoly.
On the contrary, if a company offers lower prices to take its sales ahead of its competitors, such an action is not in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act as competition exists in the market.
The Clayton Act
This federal civil statute imposes restrictions on business transactions such as exclusive dealings, tying arrangements, mergers, or acquisitions that are likely to lessen competition in the marketplace. The Government challenges such amalgamations that could increase the prices of products or services for consumers with the help of this law.
Firms considering a merger or acquisition above a certain size must notify the Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission. It also allows private parties to raise claims if they have suffered antitrust injury. If the private party wins the litigation, it can claim damages and attorney’s fees. The courts can also grant related relief to the party.
The Federal Trade Commission Act
This federal statute prohibits unfair methods of competition in interstate commerce. As per section 5, the FTC can test the limits of the antitrust policy.
A discontented firm that has not received a civil remedy under the Sherman Act or Clayton Act can ask the FTC to invoke Section 5, investigate the matter and initiate administrative proceedings to enjoin the challenged conduct.
The Robinson-Patman Act
This federal law prohibits price discrimination. It aims to protect small retail shops against competition from chain stores by fixing a minimum price for retail products. It requires the seller to offer the same price terms to customers at the same level of trade.
The Hart-Scott-Rodino Act
This act prohibits parties from completing certain transfers of securities or assets, acquisitions, mergers, and grants of executive compensation till they file for the same with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. The parties have to make such disclosures depending on the size of the transaction and the participating firms.
Either of the authoritative organizations might require additional disclosures, object to the transaction, grant conditional approval, or allow the proposed transaction. The parties could sometimes obtain expedited approval and a waiver of the obligatory waiting period.
If the authorities object to the transaction, the parties could challenge the objection. They could either abandon the transaction or re-submit a modified proposal.
State Antitrust Laws
Almost every state in the U.S. has its antitrust statutes in addition to the federal laws to govern intrastate commerce. They protect consumers from unfair business practices such as unlawful restraints, monopolies, and price-fixing.
Identifying antitrust claims
Violating the antitrust laws could lead to jail time, huge damage awards, and major costs and distractions for businesses. An experienced Antitrust & Trade Lawyer can utilize the antitrust laws to help your business.
You should look for certain signs to understand if you have a valid antitrust claim and you need to contact an Antitrust & Trade Lawyer.
You sense that some cheating is going on
As a business person, you can get a gut feeling that your adversary is up to something that is not fair competition. Healthy competition is when they market their products & services better or offer higher quality. But you sense that your competitor’s conduct is not normal.
Suspicious activities among competitors
You should look if your current and potential competitors are entering into such deals that reduce the competition among them. For example, price-fixing, market-allocation agreements, boycotts, bid-rigging, etc. Such activities could constitute for antitrust claims if you suffer an antitrust injury due to them.
Agreements keeping you out of competition
You have an antitrust claim if there is a secret agreement between your competitors, suppliers, or customers through which they are collectively boycotting you. For example, it prohibits a group of people from conducting business with you.
If your competitor has entered into a deal with a set of your customers that structurally keeps you from competing in the market, you might have an antitrust claim under a foreclosure theory.
Activities to injure your business
The adversary is indulging in such activities that will raise your costs and make it difficult for you to compete in the marketplace. The actions of your competitor should not be legitimate in such a case.
Your competitor is tying and leveraging products or services
At times a seller in a monopoly market ties-up products from a competitive market with the monopolized products and compels the customers to buy them together. This action prohibits you from competing as the customers have to buy the products from your competitor to get the monopolized products. Such action by your adversary violates antitrust laws.
As antitrust claims are complex and the interpretation of laws is difficult, it is in your best interest to contact an Antitrust & Trade Lawyer if you sense that something is unfair. Also, the attorney can help you to comply with the laws while entering into mergers or acquisitions.
You can connect with the best Antitrust & Trade Lawyer near you using the LawTally website. It will provide you with the list of the most suitable attorneys for your case. You can meet the shortlisted advocates personally and make a decision.