I recently had the privilege of speaking to a business trade association on the topic of antitrust. This topic and discussion reminded me of the importance of how business need to comply with the federal and state laws on antitrust.
The antitrust law, federal and state, are designed to protect the public. Antitrust laws regulate businesses with the idea of promoting competition for the benefit of consumers, for the efficient operation of businesses and to keep prices down and quality up.
There are 3 primary federal laws that regulate antitrust issues. They are: The Sherman Act, The Federal Trade Commission Act and The Clayton Act. These three areas protect the public from conspiracies to create a monopoly, protect against price fixing, protect against agreements to unfairly divide markets, to avoid bid rigging, and unfair hiring practices. The laws also are designed to prohibit unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
Why is this important for you and your business? In reviewing the cases pertaining to alleged violations of antitrust, it appears that the violations are either intentional or unintentional. For the intentional violations, people are making the decision to violate the law. For those types of violations, the people involved know where the line is and intentionally cross it. It is the unintentional violations where awareness helps to avoid the issues.
Many times, the enforcers of the law ask what is the purpose and effect of the dealings among competitors? So, it is important to know the purpose and effect of conversations, agreements and communications between competitors.
It is important when communicating with competitors to avoid creating agreements on price, pricing policies, costs, financing or credit terms, shipping, bids, dividing markets, boycotts, hiring practices, etc. Likewise, it is important to avoid communications that will look like or have the effect of creating agreements on the issues above.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.