Articles Posted in Antitrust

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You may have heard about the recent $100 million settlement reached between Uber and its drivers:  In that class action lawsuit Uber’s “driver-partners” claimed that they should be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors.

But there is another class action and it may impact you and other people who use Uber to get around town.  That lawsuit, Spencer Meyer v. Travis Kalanick, was filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York in 2015.  The plaintiff, an Uber rider (rather than an Uber driver), just notched a pair of significant victories.

First, on March 31, 2016, United States District Judge Jed Rakoff denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss:  The plaintiff alleges that Uber’s smartphone app allows drivers all over the country to agree with Uber and with each other to charge only the prices set by Uber.  Judge Rakoff agreed that these allegations are plausible, stating:  “The advancement of technological means for the orchestration of large-scale price-fixing conspiracies need not leave antitrust law behind.”      Continue reading

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Summer is the perfect time for grilling. You can avoid adding extra heat indoors associated with using the oven or stove by cooking outside. The chargrilled taste of a burger or steak on a hot summer day cannot be beat and having friends, family and neighbors over for a barbeque is always a festive experience. Running out of propane in your tank can ruin your meal or your party. In recent years, that may have happened more often as propane exchange tank suppliers—Blue Rhino and AmeriGas lowered the weight of propane supplied in those tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds. However, consumers may not have noticed this reduction, because the suppliers did not lower the price accordingly.

A propane exchange tank is a propane tank that a consumer purchases pre-filled from a distributor such as a hardware store, gas station, convenience store, or mass merchandiser such as WalMart, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot. The propane exchange tanks can be purchased either by exchanging an empty tank for a new pre-filled one or as a stand-alone purchase. People who use propane to fuel grills or patio heaters usually purchase propane exchange tanks.

In March 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against the two biggest propane exchange tank suppliers—Ferrellgas, whose propane exchange tank business operates under the name Blue Rhino, and AmeriGas. Collectively, Blue Rhino and AmeriGas supply 80 percent of the propane exchange tank market in the United States and are the only suppliers of propane exchange tanks capable of servicing mass merchandisers on a national level. The FTC complaint alleges that Blue Rhino and AmeriGas used their collective market power to force their customers to accept a reduction in propane exchange tank fill levels—from 17 pounds to 15 pounds—without a corresponding reduction in price.

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