• U.S.

GOVERNMENT: Repeal Fair Trade?

2 minute read

When Attorney General Herbert Brownell set up a committee in 1953 to study the nation’s antitrust laws, he made it plain that Fair Trade pricing would be one of the key subjects. Last week, after one of the most comprehensive antitrust studies ever undertaken, the committee of 61 lawyers, professors and economists turned in its 394-page report. Chief recommendation: Fair Trade laws should be repealed.

“Fair Trade’ pricing,” said the report, “may enable distributors to extinguish price competition . . . ‘Fair trade,’ when used as a device for relieving distributors from the rigors of price competition, is at odds with the most elementary principles of a dynamic free-enterprise system.”Congress should repeal the Miller-Tydings law, which exempts price-fixers of name-brand products from antitrust action, and the McGuire Act of 1952, which makes a minimum-price agreement signed by one retailer with a manufacturer binding on all retailers in a state. Said the committee: “As a result of local enabling and federal exemptive legislation, resale price-fixing, otherwise a clear antitrust violation, is today lawful in most American states.”

Among the committee’s 60 other administrative and legislative proposals:

¶ Congress should pass new laws to 1) curb union activities that lessen competition “to the extent that such commercial restraints [are] not effectively curbed,” and 2) set the statute of limitations at four years (instead of the present one to ten years) for antitrust suits.

¶ Mergers should be considered on an individual basis. Mere bigness alone should not be the cause of antitrust suits.

¶ The Attorney General should be empowered to subpoena private records of corporations during the investigative phase of civil antitrust cases,

¶ The maximum fine for antitrust violations of the Sherman Act should be boosted from $5,000 to $10,000, but the present “exorbitant” $5,000-a-day fine for continued violations of a Federal Trade Commission order should be cut to a maximum of $5,000 for each separate violation.

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