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Pennsylvania Antitrust Laws

What exactly is a trust? In the business landscape, a trust is a large corporation that controls the vast majority of a particular market share -- like a monopoly. A trust can restrict competition and consumer choice and is generally frowned upon by capitalist governments. Thus antitrust laws are intended to foster a more robust competitive landscape by discouraging large mergers and acquisitions. Pennsylvania antitrust laws are subject to a four-year statute of limitations and allow private lawsuits.

The basics of Pennsylvania antrust laws are highlighted in the following table, while additional information follows.

Antitrust Code Section Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Law: Tit. 73 §§201, et seq.
Is a Private Lawsuit Possible? Yes; attorney general power to enforce
Time Limit to Bring Claim Not specified
Can a Successful Plaintiff Recover Attorneys' Fees? May be awarded at judicial discretion but no statutory right

Purpose of Antitrust Laws

The basic purpose of antitrust laws is to foster competition, in the hopes that it would benefit the consumer. Imagine that one company controls all of the lettuce farming for an entire country. Because nobody else grows or sells lettuce, that company can charge whatever it wants, because restaurants and supermarkets can’t buy their lettuce from anyone else. Antitrust law aims to prevent this exploitative pricing. If another company also grew and sold lettuce, they would have to compete for the business from restaurants and supermarkets, and may have to lower their lettuce prices.

Similarly, some antitrust laws prohibit companies from entering into pricing agreements or noncompetition agreements. Following the previous example, let’s say that there are two lettuce companies in a country, but they agree to only supply lettuce to one half of the country each. In this way, the problem is not solved, because each company can charge whatever it wants in its geographic area. Also, antitrust laws prohibit companies from agreeing to a minimum price if they are competing in the same market.

Basics of Monopolies

Antitrust laws aim to prevent two forms of monopolies: vertical monopolies and horizontal monopolies. A company has a horizontal monopoly when it controls all of a certain product in a market. The previous example of one company controlling all of the lettuce sales is a horizontal monopoly. As well, if there are two companies, and one acquires the other, the acquiring company now has a horizontal monopoly. A vertical monopoly exists when one company controls all stages of production.

How Antitrust Law Works

Most antitrust law is practiced at the federal level. Some of the most relevant antitrust laws are federal laws, not state laws, which are enforced by the Attorney General of the United States. However, Pennsylvania has its own antitrust laws, which can be enforced by the Pennsylvania Attorney general, or enforced through private suit by someone who has been harmed by violations of Pennsylvania antitrust laws.

If you would like to know more about antitrust laws in Pennsylvania, there are many attorneys throughout the state with experience in consumer protection law who may be able to help.

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