Virginia Antitrust Attorneys
Fair and unfettered competition is the cornerstone of a free market economy. In no place is this truer than in the United States. Antitrust law governs the law of competition. It seeks to promote fair competition on the merits and to protect consumers and business competitors from anti-competitive business practices. Tactics that undermine competitive commercial behavior in a given market or line of commerce are harshly scrutinized. The underlying purpose of antitrust law is to promote robust competition in the markets by prohibiting anti-competitive monopolies, cartels, and conspiracies.
Antitrust law exists to resist harm done to an entire market, not merely to a particular business or customer. For example, an antitrust claim cannot merely allege that the plaintiff was harmed by an unscrupulous defendant. Rather, the defendant must have undermined competition in a distinct market resulting in general injury to competition and specific injury to plaintiff. In other words, a plaintiff must make a showing of “antitrust harm” resulting in “antitrust injury” to the plaintiff itself.
An antitrust offense is actually a tort committed against a market, rather than against a specific person or business in the market. That so, the law prohibiting antitrust violations seeks to prohibit activities that undermine free competition in the marketplace. Because such violations can be widespread and impact an entire market, antitrust litigation often occurs as class action litigation.
A monopoly is not automatically evil and improper under the law. In fact, monopolies may be considered necessary and useful in some markets. Despite that, it is always a violation of antitrust law to use anti-competitive or predatory practices to acquire a monopoly, preserve or enlarge a monopoly, or abuse monopoly power in one market to obtain a monopoly in another market.
Common antitrust offenses involving monopolies are: (1) procurement of monopoly power by improper means, (2) preservation or enlargement of monopoly power by improper means, and (3) abuse of monopoly power in one market to obtain monopoly power in another market.
While some antitrust schemes are complex and involve large-scale operations and conspiracies, there are other questionable activities which may violate antitrust laws against certain competition. Here are a few common examples.
- Market Allocation: Suppose one company operates in Virginia and another does business in New York. The two owners agree to stay out of each other’s territory. Because the costs of doing business are so high that startups have no chance of competing, the two companies may have a de facto
- Bid Rigging: Suppose there are three companies in a certain industry. The companies agree to secretly operate as a cartel where one company will win the first auction, the second company will win the next auction, and so on. Each company cooperates with this scheme so that all retain current market share and price, thereby preventing competition.
- Price Fixing: There are only two companies in a specific industry, and the products are so similar that the consumer is indifferent between the two except for price. In order to avoid a price war, the companies sell the products at the same price to maintain margin, which results in a higher cost than the consumer would otherwise have to pay.
Antitrust law is violated as these companies act together in order to sabotage competition on the merits by engaging in activities that are exclusionary or predatory restraints on trade. These types of violations come in a variety of other forms, such as market division by competitors, tying arrangements, and predatory pricing. Illegal agreements can exist between direct competitors (known as horizontal agreements), but can also exist between parties in supply chain of a product (known as vertical agreements, such as between a supplier and a vendor).
Antitrust law is complicated and intricate, and the Virginia antitrust attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. welcome the opportunity to represent you or your business in an antitrust situation. Our business savvy and solid grasp on the law is crucial to properly advising clients and pursuing all proper remedies no matter the type of antitrust situation you face.