Volvo Trucks N. Am., Inc. v. Reeder-Simco GMC

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In Volvo Trucks N. Am., Inc. v. Reeder-Simco GMC, Inc., 546 U.S. 164 (2006), a 6-2 U.S. Supreme Court declined to extend the prohibition against price discrimination to a manufacturer offering its dealers different wholesale prices absent a showing that the manufacturer discriminated between dealers contemporaneously competing to resell to the same retail customer. The Robinson-Patman Act mandates targeted the perceived harm to competition occasioned by powerful buyers, rather than sellers; specifically, Congress responded to the advent of large chain stores, enterprises with the clout to obtain lower prices for goods than smaller buyers could demand. See 14 H. Hovenkamp, Antitrust Law P 2302, p 11 (2d ed. 2006) (hereinafter Hovenkamp); P. Areeda & L. Kaplow, Antitrust Analysis P 602, pp 908–909 (5th ed. 1997) (hereinafter Areeda). The Act provides, in relevant part:

It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce . . . to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality, . . . where the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce, or to injure, destroy, or prevent competition with any person who either grants or knowingly [*176] receives the benefit of such discrimination, or with customers of either of them . . . ." 15 U.S.C. § 13(a).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision for the Court. Justice John Paul Stevens, a former antitrust attorney, dissented and was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.