Guide To Antitrust Laws (Anticompetitive Practices)

Anticompetitive Practices

The FTC takes action to stop and prevent unfair business practices that are likely to reduce competition and lead to higher prices, reduced quality or levels of service, or less innovation. Anticompetitive practices include activities like price fixing, group boycotts, and exclusionary exclusive dealing contracts or trade association rules, and are generally grouped into two types:

  • agreements between competitors, also referred to as horizontal conduct
  • monopolization, also referred to as single firm conduct

The FTC generally pursues anticompetitive conduct as violations of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which bans “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”

Horizontal Conduct Single Firm Conduct

It is illegal for businesses to act together in ways that can limit competition, lead to higher prices, or hinder other businesses from entering the market. The FTC challenges unreasonable horizontal restraints of trade. Such agreements may be considered unreasonable when competitors interact to such a degree that they are no longer acting independently, or when collaborating gives competitors the ability to wield market power together. Certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal. These include arrangements to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids.

For more information, check out Dealings with Competitors.

It is unlawful for a company to monopolize or attempt to monopolize trade, meaning a firm with market power cannot act to maintain or acquire a dominant position by excluding competitors or preventing new entry. It is important to note that it is not illegal for a company to have a monopoly, to charge “high prices,” or to try to achieve a monopoly position by aggressive methods. A company violates the law only if it tries to maintain or acquire a monopoly through unreasonable methods.

To learn more, read Single Firm Conduct.

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