Sixth Circuit Rules that Competing End Users Can Bring Price Discrimination Claims


In Williams v. Duke Energy International, Inc., No. 10-3604 (6th Cir. June 4, 2012), plaintiffs alleged that Duke paid English: Lightning over Las Cruces, New Mexico...unlawful and substantial electricity rebates to certain large customers, including General Motors, in exchange for the withdrawal by those customers of objections to a rate-stabilization plan that Duke was attempting to have approved by Ohio regulators.

The Sixth Circuit held that electricity is a commodity within the meaning of the Robinson-Patman Act.  It also found that plaintiffs had stated a price discrimination claim, because one subclass of plaintiffs, sellers of goods and services, competed in the same market as the favored customers and alleged that they lost profits as a result of the discriminatory rebates and the competitive advantage provided to favored customers.  “Defendants’ contention that the [Robinson-Patman Act] applies only to the resale of a purchased product is not consistent with case law.”

Usually price discrimination between and among end users is not problematic.  Williams is a reminder that such discrimination is usually not problematic because the end users aren’t in competition with each other.  Sometimes, however, they are.

*(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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