Would you know if your business violated federal antitrust law? You might think you would, but you could be surprised to learn what constitutes a violation. Antitrust laws govern the ways in which you can communicate with and work with your competitors. If you cross a line, you could face stiff fines and even imprisonment. Learn what you need to know about antitrust laws here.
Why Antitrust Laws Exist
There are several federal acts that regulate antitrust activities, including the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. Antitrust laws came about around 1900 to break up monopolies and create competition so that prices remained fair for consumers. The same ideas apply today, although you might think that only big telecom and oil companies have to worry about them. The reality is that even a small local business could be found guilty of violating antitrust law.
If You Own a Business, Don't Participate in These Practices
So maybe you know better than to knowingly conspire with other companies in your industry to keep prices high and shut out competition, but did you know that the following practices are also in violation of antitrust laws?
- Discussing pricing with competitors, even at a trade show or industry conference
- Making deals with competitors to divide or share customers or territories
- Signing exclusive contracts with suppliers or retailers that could keep new businesses out of the marketplace
- Requiring exclusivity from a customer or insisting on reciprocal agreements with customers
- Publicly denouncing a competitor's product without proof to back up your criticism
- Participating in a range of contracts, agreements, communications, and "understandings"
There can be a fine line between being an aggressive competitor and breaking antitrust laws. If you are in doubt about what is legal, or you have already been charged with an antitrust crime, you need a business attorney with antitrust law experience.