You’ve probably heard of the mysteriously vague “market” in different contexts. Investors know of the stock market and the bond market. Employers know about the labor market. Merchants in various fields operate in their respective markets too. Truth is, there is a “market” whenever two or more people engage to exchange something – from stocks and bonds to carrot sticks and candy bars.
Antitrust laws help ensure that markets stay open to competition and free of monopolies and unfair practices. Federal and state antitrust laws are on the books to accomplish this purpose. Here’s a brief summary of Montana’s antitrust laws.
Montana’s Antitrust Laws
Montana antitrust laws prohibit business practices intended to create monopolies, injure or destroy competition, and fix prices. Businesses cannot sell something at less than its cost, enter into agreements to fix prices or reduce production (which raises prices), or agree not to manufacture, sell, or transport an item below a certain price.
There are prohibitions on selling or purchasing something for more in one part of the state and less in another with the intent to hurt competition. Economists call this “predatory pricing,” but it really amount to forcing a competitor to go out of business by selling cheap or buying high. There are also laws against pooling grain and destroying food, both of which can affect prices.
What Happens to Businesses that Break the Rules?
There are different ways to take action. Anyone can file a complaint with the Montana Department of Justice. Montana law permits the department to investigate antitrust violations and order the offender to stop. Both the department and any affected person can file a lawsuit as well. Montana permits prevailing plaintiffs to recover treble damages, obtain injunctive relief, and receive attorney fees and litigation costs. Businesses can lose their charter and be permanently banned from doing business in Montana again. There are also criminal penalties on the books.
|Antitrust Code Sections||Montana Code Annotated 30-14-201, et seq.|
|Can I File a Complaint?||Yes, with the Montana Department of Justice.|
|Is a Private Lawsuit Possible?||Yes, anyone who is injured or will be injured can sue. Plaintiffs can obtain injunctive relief and treble damages (30-14-222).|
|Time Limit to Bring Claim||Not specified.|
|Can a Successful Plaintiff Recover Attorneys' Fees?||Yes, both fees and litigation costs (30-14-222).|
Related Resources for Antitrust Laws
Antitrust is a complex field that often requires specialized training. You can learn more about state antitrust laws and antitrust laws in general here. If you or someone you know has suffered due to unfair business practices, consider speaking with a Montana antitrust lawyer to determine your available options.
Contact a qualified attorney.