Competition plays an important role in business. No matter the industry, a healthy competitive environment boosts innovation and keeps prices fair for the consumer. However, not all businesses agree, resulting in antitrust laws. Antitrust laws prevent companies from engaging in unfair business practices such as price fixing and bid rigging, promoting fair competition. Each state has its own form of antitrust legislation, and Wisconsin is no exception. 

anti-trust lawsuit in wisconsin

Wisconsin Antitrust Laws

State laws regarding antitrust matters are contained within Chapter 133 of Wisconsin legislation. In addition to Wisconsin law, all businesses must abide by federal antitrust laws. These laws, which have been in place for over 130 years, began as a way to break up anti-competitive practices and have expanded to protect a competitive environment. Together with state legislation, antitrust laws provide businesses and consumers in Wisconsin with a competitive business environment free of monopolies or other harmful practices. In fact, all of the state’s antitrust laws are based on established federal laws.

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice utilizes a Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit that investigates and prosecutes antitrust violations. The group works alongside state and local groups like financial institutions and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture to ensure fair and safe business practices across the state. 

Under Wisconsin law, the following actions are in violation of antitrust laws:

  • Unlawful contracts/conspiracies
  • Price discrimination/intent to destroy competition 
  • Secret rebates/unfair trade practices
  • Interlocking directorates 

Wisconsin antitrust laws list certain exceptions. Chapter 133 states that these laws aren’t intended to discourage unions from forming or workers from collective bargaining. Essentially, antitrust laws are created to protect the people. The state abides by a six-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuits concerning antitrust violations in order to allow citizens access to fast justice; all antitrust cases are expedited to be heard at the earliest available date. 

All Wisconsin antitrust laws work in conjunction with three main federal laws.

Sherman Antitrust Act

The Sherman Act was first enacted in 1890 by Senator John Sherman as a way to break up monopolies and prevent unfair restrictions on business practices. Intentional or willful acts that violate the Sherman Act are met with serious consequences including prison time and fines in the millions. 

Federal Trade Commision Act

One result of the Federal Trade Commission Act is the formation of the FTC. The FTC enforces antitrust legislation, creates rules regarding unfair business practices, and makes recommendations to Congress. Last year, the FTC settled eight antitrust complaints in the United States, a sharp decrease from previous years. 

Clayton Antitrust Act

Created as an amendment to the Sherman Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act expands antitrust laws by listing certain prohibited behaviors such as serving as a board member for two competing companies, price discrimination, and mergers that would limit competition. One of the biggest differences with the Clayton Act is that it excludes unions. Penalties for violating the Clayton Antitrust Act are purely civil. 

Antitrust Lawsuits in Wisconsin

Remaining in compliance with state and federal antitrust laws is essential to any business operating in Wisconsin. Failing to comply with state and federal laws can result in a lawsuit, which can cost a business time, money, and their reputation. A business law attorney can help protect your business interests while maintaining compliance with antitrust laws. Contact Attolles Law, S.C. to schedule a consultation with an antitrust law attorney.