Does Your E-Commerce Activity Violate Antitrust Laws?

Are you selling goods online?

If so, you need to make sure that you are not violating Federal antitrust laws.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division recently announced its first criminal prosecution against a conspiracy targeting e-commerce.  The felony charge was filed against David Topkins for his alleged role in conspiring to fix the prices of certain posters sold online through Amazon Marketplace.  The Department of Justice said that Topkins conspired with others by adopting specific pricing algorithms for the sale of certain posters, so that the parties could coordinate pricing changes.  The government also alleged that the conspirators wrote computer code that instructed algorithm-based software to set prices in conformity with their agreement.

The Department of Justice charged Topkins with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which prohibits certain anti-competitive business activities.  The Act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million for individuals.  Topkins agreed to pay a $20,000 fine as part of his plea agreement.

This case serves as a good reminder for businesses that transactions conducted via the internet are not free from the law.  Whether it is paying the appropriate state sales tax or adhering to antitrust laws, businesses should remember to abide by all applicable laws and regulations.  As more commerce is conducted online, you can bet that regulators will increasingly scrutinize online commercial activity, which provides even more reason to ensure that your e-commerce activity is within the confines of the law.

If you have any questions about antitrust laws and e-commerce activity or about e-commerce and the law in general, contact our office at 814-870-7600 or complete this form on our website.