Q&A: Antitrust Laws for Small Businesses

arden-olson-smby Arden Olson

Q: Do “antitrust” laws apply to small businesses?

A: Yes. Although laws regulating trade may seem to regulate large corporations, even small businesses can violate them.

The Sherman Act prohibits not only “monopolizing” large markets, but agreements on price or on how businesses compete in smaller contexts. Businesses may not limit competition, and consumer harm is presumed from such agreements.

That Act and similar state laws are enforced by regulators and by private lawsuits from persons affected by unlawful agreements. In one case, three dentists were prosecuted criminally for agreeing not to accept a dental plan’s rates. Someone hurt by an agreement not to compete can sue for three times their damage.

Discussions between even small competitors that suggest agreement can be big trouble.

 

Originally published in the Portland Business Journal.