Antitrust Attorney Jeff Goldstein Represents Only Franchisees And Dealers
Franchisees and dealers are often subjected to franchisors and suppliers’ newly developed and obtrusive marketing and pricing demands, many of which may seem to violate antitrust laws. Most antitrust laws’ general purpose, both at the federal and state levels, is to preserve and promote competition in certain markets. Many times, modern conceptions of fair competition, which focus on increased aggregate consumer welfare as a whole, are at odds with individual franchisees and dealers’ well-being, financial stability, and longevity. Without the help of an antitrust attorney, the wrongdoings may go unnoticed or without ramifications.
Most franchisees and dealers, as well as some inexperienced franchise attorneys, incorrectly believe that whenever a franchisor or manufacturer establishes a pricing policy or pricing guideline that is mandatory for their franchisees or dealers, antitrust laws are violated. Because of this inaccurate belief, franchisees and dealers have filed and funded many meritless cases. On the other hand, with the advocacy of an experienced antitrust attorney, certain distribution policies mandated by franchisors or suppliers could be viewed to injure not only individual franchisees and dealers, but overall competition as well.
Antitrust Violations in Franchising: What Franchisees and Dealers Need to Know
1. State and Federal Antitrust Laws Protect Franchisees and Dealers.
While state and federal antitrust laws protect consumers, they also protect franchisees and dealers. If you own a franchise or dealership and you believe that your business is being harmed by an anti-competitive practice, you may have a claim for an antitrust violation.
2. Antitrust Violations Can Take Many Different Forms.
Not all franchisor pricing guidelines are illegal. Franchisors have legally-recognized legitimate interests in controlling their franchisees’ practices in various respects, and many practices that are harmful to franchisees are permissible (even if not economically advisable) under the law.
That said, antitrust violations can take several different forms. We have represented New York City franchisees and dealers in cases involving issues such as:
- Unilateral Refusals to Deal – Franchisors’ refusals to deal with individual franchisees can give rise to claims under the federal Sherman Act. Examples include refusing to supply products to a franchisee who will not agree to minimum retail pricing and using franchise territories as a means to unlawfully limit franchisees’ market opportunities.
- Tying Arrangements – A classic tying arrangement involves a franchisor requiring its franchisees to purchase one product or service in order to also purchase another. However, some tying arrangements are not so clearly defined, and yet they still have substantial anti-competitive effects for franchisees.
- Minimum Price Fixing – New York is among the limited number of states that enforces a prohibition on minimum price fixing (or “minimum resale price maintenance”). This means, broadly speaking, that franchisors are prohibited from requiring franchisees to sell at or above a certain price.
- Profit Passovers – If you are required to pay an additional royalty or direct compensation to another franchisee when you sell outside of your franchise territory, your franchisor may be enforcing a profit passover that violates state and federal antitrust laws.
- Customer Restrictions – While using franchise territories to divide the market is a well-established practice, there are numerous instances in which franchisors’ customer restrictions for franchisees can go too far.
Other franchisor policies and practices that can give rise to private causes of action for state and federal antitrust violations include:
- Exclusive Territories and Exclusive Distributorships
- Exclusive Dealership
- Agreements on Terms of Trade & Restraint of Trade
- Full Line Pricing
- Discriminatory Prices or Terms of Sale
- Franchisee and Dealer Terminations
- Predatory Advertising
3. The Franchise Model Has Unique Implications for Antitrust Claims.
While franchisors and manufacturers are subject to the same antitrust laws as other large corporations, antitrust issues often have unique implications within the franchise model. As a result, franchisees and dealers pursuing legal remedies for antitrust violations should seek the representation of an antitrust attorney with significant antitrust and franchise law experience.
4. Antitrust Laws Allow for Private Civil Actions in Addition to Government Enforcement.
While state and federal authorities pursue select cases of anti-competitive conduct, franchisees and dealers will often need to initiate civil litigation in order to protect their rights. Antitrust laws at both levels of government include “private right of action” clauses that allow for these types of lawsuits.
5. Franchisees and Dealers Affected by Antitrust Violations Various Potential Remedies Available.
In private antitrust litigation, franchisees and dealers generally have a few different remedies available. Depending upon the facts and specific legal issues involved, the potential remedies can include restitution, damages, and injunctive relief prohibiting the anti-competitive activity.
Success Of Goldstein Law Firm Combatting Antitrust Violations
Antritrust attorney Jeff Goldstein and the lawyers at Goldstein Law Firm have over thirty years of experience successfully representing only franchisees and dealers in cases involving antitrust violations and other anticompetitive conduct by franchisors and suppliers. Attorney Goldstein’s success in protecting franchisees, dealers, and other small businesses from antitrust and other anticompetitive conduct is distinguished.
Jeff Goldstein, in contrast to ninety-nine percent of other antitrust attorneys , represents only franchisees and dealers – not franchisors, suppliers or manufacturers – in cases around the country. This exclusive focus on franchisees and dealers has, in part, allowed Jeff Goldstein and his associates to quickly and accurately find, detect, discover, and investigate anticompetitive conduct of franchisors and dealers. Further, Goldstein Law’s experience and expertise with franchise litigation allows its lawyers to successfully protect their franchisee and dealer clients from the harmful economic damages caused by franchisor and supplier anticompetitive conduct that violates antitrust laws.
What Can Franchisees Do if They Suspect an Antitrust Violation?
If you suspect that your franchisor may be violating California or U.S. federal antitrust laws, it is important that you speak with an antitrust attorney promptly. You may have a right to sue to stop your franchisor’s unlawful practices; but, if your franchisor has been concealing these practices, you could be running up against the statute of limitations. At the Goldstein Law Firm, we can use our experience to quickly assess your case and help you determine whether it is in your best interests to pursue litigation.
Are All Franchisors Susceptible to Antitrust Claims?
No, not necessarily. In addition, it may be possible for franchisees in certain geographic areas to have antitrust claims while franchisees in other locations do not. This is because a fundamental principle of antitrust law is that, in order to commit a violation, the violator must have sufficient “market power” to have a negative impact on competition.
Similar to the other aspects of an antitrust claim, market power is a fact-driven issue. Truth be told, most franchisors do not have the market power to broadly control the prices offered to consumers. However, franchisors can exert market power over their franchisees; and, in niche markets, franchisors may be able to establish sufficient geography-specific market power to substantiate a pricing-related antitrust claim. As a result, to a certain extent, the size of a franchise system can be irrelevant – or at least non-determinative of the viability of franchisee-initiated antitrust litigation.
Can Franchisees Join Together to Pursue Antitrust Claims?
Due to the nature of certain antitrust violations, oftentimes, multiple franchisees will suffer similar negative effects. When this is the case, it may be possible for franchisees to join together as a group to take legal action against their franchisor. While group representation of franchisees presents its own potential legal challenges, antitrust cases will often involve circumstances in which joint legal action is a viable option. In order to decide whether group representation is appropriate, an antitrust attorney will need to thoroughly assess the relative similarity of the franchisees’ claims as well as any potential conflicts (or other drawbacks) to multi-plaintiff litigation in light of the circumstances at hand.
What Remedies Will an Antitrust Attorney Pursue in Private Antitrust Litigation?
The remedies available will depend upon the specific statutes at play and the unique facts and circumstances involved in your case. Generally speaking, however, potential remedies in private antitrust litigation include:
- Injunctive relief (i.e. to stop the anti-competitive activity)
To effectively stop wrongful anticompetitive conduct by your franchisor or supplier, you should contact antitrust attorney Jeff Goldstein at the Goldstein Law Firm. Contact us online now or call us at 202-293-3947. Don’t let your franchisor or supplier’s hidden or oppressive anticompetitive agenda destroy your business and personal fortunes.