Bradley partner Henry Su was quoted in Business Insider discussing notable cases involving the Robinson-Patman Act. While there are exceptions, in simple terms, the Robinson-Patman Act says manufacturers must charge retailers the same prices when selling identical products at the same time in the same geographic area.
In 2010, Spartan Concrete sued Argos, complaining the wholesale concrete distributor gave a competitor, Heavy Metals, a 10% discount but refused to extend the same discount to Spartan.
"Although the case actually went to a bench trial, the trial court still granted a directed verdict in the defendant's favor based on the plaintiff's failure to prove antitrust injury," said Su, who noted that most Robinson-Patman cases never make it as far as a trial. "The case illustrates how difficult it has been for Robinson-Patman plaintiffs to link the challenged business practices to some harm to competition."
Despite the fact that the Robinson-Patman Act is rarely enforced, it remains law and most recently has been the focus of a group known as the Main Street Competition Coalition, which has urged the FTC to bring Robinson-Patman action against large chains and business entities.
Su is skeptical. “In my view, the only way this can and will change is if a complainant presents the FTC with the rudiments of a potential Robinson-Patman Act case against a large retailer for further investigation and possible enforcement,” he said. “Simply generally calling for the agency to use its enforcement authority, which it has always had, is not going to shift the considerable momentum that has developed over the past several decades favoring industry guidance over enforcement.”
The original article, “Robinson-Patman Act: A federal law aimed at leveling the playing field between small and large businesses,” appeared in Business Insider on November 4, 2021.