Antitrust laws prohibit businesses from artificially inflating or fixing prices. This is intended to protect consumers from the harmful effects of monopolies and lack of business competition. The three major federal antitrust laws are the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act. These laws protect consumers from businesses reducing or eliminating competition, fixing prices to ensure large profits, boycotting within an industry to prevent new competitors, bid rigging for contracts, and creating monopolies by excluded others.
South Carolina also has antitrust laws to protect citizens from persons or companies who act with others to reduce competition or create monopolies artificially to make more money for themselves.
The table below details the South Carolina antitrust laws.
|Code Section||South Carolina Code Title 39: Trade & Commerce, Chapter 3: Trust, Monopolies, and Restraints of Trade|
|What is Prohibited?||South Carolina law prohibits agreements, contracts, or arrangements between two or more individuals or corporations that try to do any of the following:
Any such agreements or contracts are against public policy, unlawful and void.
Monopolies are also unlawful and against public policy. People operating a monopoly are guilty of conspiracy to defraud and are subject to the penalties below. A monopoly is any consolidation, union, or aggregation of capital, property, or trades by persons or corporations that acts in anti-competitive manners. For example, selling goods for less than cost with the intent to drive out competition or financially injure competitors is called conspiracy to form or secure a trust or monopoly in restraint of trade and of unfair discrimination, which is unlawful in South Carolina. Each sale in violation of this law is considered a separate offense.
It’s also a violation of this law and conspiracy to defraud to:
|Penalties||Violators of these anti-business competition laws can be penalized in many ways, from fines to ceasing permission to operate as business, to civil lawsuits.
Any person, officer, company, or firm that violates the antitrust laws will be find $200 to $5,000 for each offense. Each day a person continues with an unlawful and unfair business practice is a separate offense. The money collected goes to the State Treasury to become part of the general fund.
Charter & Franchise Forfeiture
When a complaint about anti-competitive or price fixing business behavior is made, the Attorney General can make a South Carolina company forfeit its charter. If substantiated by the court, the corporation will have to dissolve and cease to operate.
Foreign (out-of-state) corporations found to have violated these antitrust laws are disqualified and no longer have the right to do business in South Carolina.
If a company has franchises and violates these antitrust laws, the corporation and its franchises will be declared forfeited and void.
Persons or companies who violate this law and commit any other crimes can be punished for the other crimes in addition to these penalties.
|Enforcement Agency||The South Carolina Attorney General has the power to enforce these laws by investigating any complaints of these types of unfair or unlawful business practices. Witnesses may be called. Also, the Attorney General will prosecute any matters on appeal or to the Supreme Court of South Carolina, even if the circuit court solicitor brought the original action.|
|Private Civil Lawsuit||A person who’s been harmed by any trust arrangement or agreement that restrained commerce can sue the wrongdoer in court. The person sues the trust or combination company or companies for the amount he paid for any goods controlled by the trust.
Individuals who’ve been harmed by these types of bad business behaviors can possibly also sue under the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. This law prohibits unfair and deceptive practices for anyone doing commerce in South Carolina. A lawsuit under this law must be brought within three years of the violation of that act.
|Attorney Fees||If a plaintiff brings and wins a case under the Unfair Trade Practices Act, he or she can have his or her reasonable attorney’s fees paid for by the losing defendant.|
Whether you’ve been harmed by a monopoly or other unfair business competition act or have been accused of committing an antitrust related crime, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina Antitrust and Trade Regulation Attorney to determine your legal options.
Note: As state laws change regularly, it’s important to verify any laws you’re reading about by conducting your own legal research or contacting a local attorney.
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