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How explicit are price-fixing agreements?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | commercial litigation

The free market should determine the price of goods and services. As a business owner, you understand the fair value of your products and price them appropriately. However, problems can arise when an unscrupulous competitor joins with other companies to fix their prices to hurt your business.

If you suspect anti-competitive practices are hurting your company, you might want to find evidence to support your case. Sometimes price-fixing is specific and written out, but other times it is not.

Specifically written agreements

According to The Street, some businesses actually compose their plans to raise or lower their prices. This means all parties involved are aware of the scheme and go along with it deliberately, with each company understanding its part. This can lead to litigation if any written agreement becomes revealed.

Tacit and implied agreements

However, not all price-fixing schemes exist in a formal, written form. In some cases the price-fixing happens because one company takes the lead and the rest follow, creating a “follow the leader” situation. The businesses are still engaging in price-fixing but in a more subtle fashion.

These situations still go against the law, but they are harder to prove. If law enforcement gets involved, they often have to work from circumstantial evidence since there is no proof of a specific agreement to fix the prices.

Crimes related to price-fixing

Even if it is difficult to prove price-fixing in some cases, the players involved in the scheme may reveal other anticompetitive practices. Chron explains that businesses might produce evidence of the crime of conspiracy, meaning there is evidence they actively sought to engage in illegal competitive practices. Another related crime is market manipulation.

Some businesses are sure they can get away with fixing prices to their benefit. However, the range of legal options available may give you avenues to seek justice if your business suffers from illegal market manipulation.