Antitrust Law

Is Robinson-Patman Act Outdated?

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Since 1936, the Robinson-Patman Act has required manufacturers to sell to charge retailers the same price for same-sized containers of the same product. But some say it may be time to change the law, which has the effect of sometimes making it possible for consumers to buy large containers of food at a much lower price from retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club that feature super-sized products.

A Federal Trade Commision report in April calls for the repeal of the federal statute, the Chicago Tribune reports, arguing that a competitive system that lets big-volume retailers exert their bargaining leverage would result in savings for consumers on products of all sizes.

Meanwhile, a court case in Massachusetts over Ocean Spray Cranberries pricing practices has also cast a spotlight on Robinson-Patman and its effect on big retailers. The 2003 suit, which is scheduled to go to trial later this month, alleges that Ocean Spray charged different prices for the same product, according to a May article in Produce Business magazine.

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