Understanding Federal & State Antitrust Laws in Pennsylvania
Antitrust laws are an important element of capitalism. Ostensibly, the purpose of these laws is to promote robust competition within a given market and prevent single entities from controlling too much market share. This is often achieved through strict regulation of large acquisitions and mergers, as well as pricing agreements, non-compete agreements, and similar contracts.
Whether you are a new business owner, an established corporate entity, or an employee being asked to sign a non-compete agreement, it is important that you both comply with federal and state antitrust regulations and know how to protect your rights as you navigate the consumer landscape. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our Philadelphia antitrust attorneys have extensive knowledge in this complex area of law and can advise you on a variety of related issues. We have successfully helped numerous business clients throughout the state ensure compliance with all applicable regulations, as well as assert their rights in various business litigation and antitrust matters.
What Is the Purpose of Antitrust Laws?
Before discussing the purpose of antitrust laws, it is important to define “trust” in this context. A trust refers to a large corporate entity that controls most of a particular market, similar to a monopoly. Due to majority control or market share, trusts can reduce the number of choices consumers have, thereby driving prices and restricting competition.
The purpose of antitrust laws is to limit this from happening. Rather than allow for the consolidation of power among trusts, antitrust laws seek to encourage a more robust and competitive consumer market.
To achieve this, antitrust laws generally do the following:
- Limit large mergers and acquisitions that would unfairly consolidate power
- Prevent exploitive price-setting by singular entities
- Prohibit large entities, including companies, from entering into pricing agreements
- Prevent non-competition agreements between corporate entities
In addition to restricting largescale mergers and acquisitions, antitrust laws seek to prevent multiple companies from controlling prices in different regions. For example, two companies generally may not agree to only sell goods or services in two different areas (i.e., enter into a non-competition agreement), as this can foster price-setting by either company in each distinct geographic area.
How Antitrust Laws Work
Most antitrust issues are regulated at the federal level. However, many states have enacted their own antitrust laws modeled after federal statutes. Pennsylvania is a notable exception, as it does not have a general antitrust statute. Instead, antitrust issues in Pennsylvania typically fall under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), which shares several of the same objectives as federal antitrust laws. However, the UTPCPL focuses mainly on consumer protection, rather than antitrust law or anticompetition practices.
That being said, business practices that are considered unreasonably detrimental for consumers are prohibited by both state law and legal precedent in Pennsylvania. Additionally, businesses should be aware of and comply with all federal antitrust regulations. Failure to do so could significantly jeopardize the business’s operations and future.
When to Hire an Antitrust Attorney
It is important for any new or established business to seek the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable antitrust attorney. Those found to violate antitrust laws could face serious civil and criminal penalties, including steep fines and payment of up to three times the amount in damages to affected parties. Serious violations could even result in imprisonment.
For those affected by antitrust violations, the impact can be immense. Victims may suffer significant, irreparable damage to their business ventures and could be entitled to fair restitution for such losses. If you have been negatively impacted by antitrust violations, it is a good idea to reach out to an attorney who can aid you in taking the proper legal action.
At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our business litigation lawyers have extensive experience navigating complex antitrust matters and are prepared to advocate for you and your rights. Whether you are seeking restitution after suffering economic losses caused by antitrust violations, or you are defending yourself from antitrust violation allegations, our firm can help.