Most people might think of antitrust as a set of laws meant first and foremost to protect consumers. We think of monopolist mega-corporations or cartels formed in smoke-filled rooms as typical defendants. The villains in antitrust folk stories want to fix prices or otherwise find ways to gouge the consumer.
But antitrust statutes have a vast reach and also protect smaller businesses striving to compete. For example, federal law punishes predatory pricing –the combination of selling below cost and doing so for the purpose taking off the competition. Lower prices resulting from sales below cost, however temporary, would not hurt the ultimate consumer. And monopolistic prices later are already illegal. But antitrust laws safeguard fair competition in and of itself, so small businesses driven off by anti-competitive behavior have a remedy under these statutes.
Those kinds of matters are not limited to Davids fighting Microsoft-like Goliaths. If the only coffee shop in a small St Johns County town starts giving the stuff away to keep a would-be competitor from successfully opening a second spot to sit down with a cup of joe, the upstart business may well have a claim in federal court.
Many business owners may not realize the scope of state and federal laws that target various anti-competitive behaviors. This is where a good attorney comes in. True, there may be nothing illegal in a competitor’s harsh tactics to conquer the market. But then again, you never know.