First-time contributor and resident litigation expert, Don Scaramastra, has offered to update the status of the much discussed class-action involving online distributors and certain hotel operators, and to discuss antitrust laws related to online distribution. Thank you Don for this informative piece.
On December 11, 2012, the federal Panel on Multi-District Litigation ordered the consolidation of class-action lawsuits alleging that online travel agents and certain hotel chains conspired to impose a resale price maintenance scheme that fixed the retail price for hotel room reservations in violation of federal and state antitrust laws. The MDL Panel ordered these lawsuits to proceed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Since last summer, over 20 such lawsuits have been filed. This outcome appears to be good news for the defendants, all of whom advocated for the transfer and consolidation of these cases to that district.
You might be wondering what these lawsuits are all about, what “resale price maintenance” (or “RPM”) is, and what the antitrust laws have to say about it.
RPM is the practice in which a seller and buyer at one link in a distribution chain agree on the minimum price that the buyer may turn around and resell the product.
RPM has something of a storied history in antitrust law. Under federal antitrust laws, RPM was deemed unlawful just over a century ago. But in the 1930s, Congress enacted a partial “fair trade” exemption from liability. Four decades later, Congress repealed the exemption, returning RPM to its former illegal status. And finally, five years ago, in Leegin Creative Leather Products v. PSKS, Inc., the Supreme Court declared that not all RPM agreements were illegal, only those that imposed an “unreasonable” restraint on trade. And that is where things stand today.
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.