In the context of business regulation, a "trust" is a very large corporation that lacks any real competition. Antitrust laws, therefore, are intended to foster a more competitive landscape, which tends to provide better choices and fair prices for consumers. These laws usually come into play after a large corporate merger is announced, prior to final approval. North Carolina antitrust laws have a four-year statute of limitations for filing claims and allow private lawsuits for violations.
The following table highlights the main provisions of North Carolina's antitrust laws, or you can read in more detail about the subject below. See FindLaw's Consumer Protection section for related articles.
|Antitrust Code Section||75-1, et seq.|
|Is a Private Lawsuit Possible?||Yes|
|Time Limit to Bring Claim||4 yrs.|
|Can a Successful Plaintiff Recover Attorneys' Fees?||Yes|
Purpose of Antitrust Laws
The main purpose of antitrust laws is to foster economic competition. In the end, competition will hopefully provide lower prices for consumers, and encourage industries to develop better products and services. When only one company provides a single service or makes a specific product, it can be said that that company has a monopoly.
For example, if one company supplies water for an entire state, that company could charge whatever it wants for the water because the state's residents do not have any other option. Antitrust laws are designed to protect consumers from this type of exploitative pricing. Similarly, antitrust laws aim to prevent companies from entering into non-competition agreements.
Continuing on the previous example, let's say that two neighboring states have their water supply controlled by two different companies. Even though both companies could supply water for either state, the companies agree to only supply water in one state, so they do not have to compete against each other. If the companies were forced to compete against each other, they may be forced to charge lower prices that are more in line with the actual costs of supplying water to the consumer, rather than an exploitative price.
Basics of Antitrust Laws
Antitrust laws are designed to prevent two forms of monopolies: vertical monopolies and horizontal monopolies. Vertical monopolies exist when one company or group of companies owns an entire industry and production chain, like tapping a water source all the way through to delivering bottled water. A horizontal monopoly exists when only one or very few companies own a certain type of business, like being the only bottled water delivery service in a state.
If you would like to know more about antitrust law, there are many attorneys throughout North Carolina with antitrust experience who may be able to help. Generally, these attorneys help represent businesses that are sued for antitrust violations by the federal government, and they may be able to help advise you on ensuring that you do not violate antitrust laws. As well, it may be helpful to speak with a consumer protection attorney if you are considering a private lawsuit for damages relating to unlawful activities.
Contact a qualified attorney.