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California Antitrust Laws

Last updated 11/14/2019

We expect businesses to charge as much for their goods or services as they can, while consumers want to pay as little as possible. But what happens when different businesses get together to artificially set prices or supply? Thankfully for consumers and some competing businesses, there are laws in place to protect open markets. Here is a brief introduction to antitrust laws in California.

Antitrust Law Generally

Antitrust laws are meant to foster competition and job growth by limiting any one company's control of a given market and artificially inflating prices. Most antitrust laws were passed after a handful of powerful monopolies squashed competition and stifled economic growth in the last nineteenth century. The federal government normally handles antitrust cases, particularly since they typically involve interstate commerce, but states also play a role. California antitrust laws allow private lawsuits against defendant businesses, as long as claims are brought within four years.

Antitrust Law in California

State antitrust laws can differ state-to-state, or even from federal antitrust laws. The basics of California antitrust laws are summarized below.

Antitrust Code Section

 Bus. & Prof. §16700, et seq. (Cartwright Act)

Is a Private Lawsuit Possible?

Yes; attorney general may bring action on behalf of state 16750(a)+(c)

Time Limit to Bring Claim

4 yrs., 16750.1

Can a Successful Plaintiff Recover Attorneys' Fees?

Yes, 16750(a)

Antitrust Enforcement

Antitrust laws aim to protect free trade and commerce from unfair restraints, monopolies, and price fixing. Two federal laws -- the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act -- govern the majority of antitrust cases. Antitrust statutes are generally enforced in two ways:

  • A state attorney general can sue on behalf of the state in order to end the unfair practice by obtaining an injunction prohibiting the practice or to punish the unfair practice by ordering fines or other redress to be paid to the consumers; or
  • A private right of action, where competing businesses or consumers themselves sue to recover for damages for injuries suffered as a result of the unfair practice.

Some states permit civil charges only; some permit civil and criminal charges.

Related Resources for Antitrust Laws

State and federal antitrust laws are constantly changing and overlapping. If you would like legal assistance with an antitrust case, or if you want to make sure of the rules and regulations regarding your business, you can contact an experienced California antitrust attorney. You can also conduct your own legal research by visiting FindLaw’s consumer protection and small business law centers to learn more about business regulations.

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