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Robinson-Patman Act

| Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Dec 2, 2008 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/rule/antitrust-policies/2217-2/

The Federal Robinson-Patman Act prohibits manufacturers and suppliers from providing price discounts and other forms of preferential treatment to some buyers and not to others, if the effect of such discrimination is to lessen competition or injure individual competitors. Volume discounts are allowed only to the extent that they reflect actual differences in the cost of manufacture or sale of the product.

The law was enacted in 1936 amid growing concerns that large retail firms were using their market power to exact special deals from manufacturers not made available to small, independent businesses. As federal District Court Judge Abner Mikva noted in 1988, “Congress was convinced that, by protecting small businesses, it was also protecting the operation of a competitive economy.”

For more background and information on recent enforcement, see our Antitrust Policies page.

The Robinson-Patman Act is actually an amendment to Section 2 of the Clayton Act. The following is an excerpt. The Clayton Act which is part of Title 15: Commerce and Trade, Chapter 1: Monopolies and Combinations in Restraint of Trade of the U.S. Code.


Sections 2(a) through 2(f) of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Act, 15 U.S.C.A. 13(a) through 13(f).

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities:

(a)Price; selection of customers. It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities of like grade and quality, where either or any of the purchases involved in such discrimination are in commerce, where such commodities are sold for use, consumption, or resale within the United States or any Territory thereof or the District of Columbia or any insular possession or other place under the jurisdiction of the United States, and 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 receives the benefit of such discrimination, or with customers of either of them: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall prevent differentials which make only due allowance for differences in the cost of manufacture, sale, or delivery resulting from the differing methods or quantities in which such commodities are to such purchasers sold or delivered: Provided, however, That the Federal Trade Commission may, after due investigation and hearing to all interested parties, fix and establish quantity limits, and revise the same as it finds necessary, as to particular commodities or classes of commodities, where it finds that available purchasers in greater quantities are so few as to render differentials on account thereof unjustly discriminatory or promotive of monopoly in any line of commerce; and the foregoing shall then not be construed to permit differentials based on differences in quantities greater than those so fixed and established: And provided further, That nothing herein contained shall prevent persons engaged in selling goods, wares, or merchandise in commerce from selecting their own customers in bona fide transactions and not in restraint of trade: And provided further, That nothing herein contained shall prevent price changes from time to time where in response to changing conditions affecting the market for or the marketability of the goods concerned, such as but not limited to actual or imminent deterioration of perishable goods, obsolescence of seasonal goods, distress sales under court process, or sales in good faith in discontinuance of business in the goods concerned.

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities

(b)Burden of rebutting prima-facie case of discrimination. Upon proof being made, at any hearing on a complaint under this section, that there has been discrimination in price or services or facilities furnished, the burden of rebutting the prima-facie case thus made by showing justification shall be upon the person charged with a violation of this section, and unless justification, and unless justification shall be affirmatively shown, the Commission is authorized to issue an order terminating the discrimination: Provided, however, That nothing herein contained shall prevent a seller rebutting the prima-facie case thus made by showing that his lower price or the furnishing of services or facilities to any purchaser or purchasers was made in good faith to meet an equally low price of a competitor, or the services or facilities furnished by a competitor.

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities

(c)Payment or acceptance of commission, brokerage or other compensation. It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, to pay or grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage, or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares, or merchandise, either to the other party to such transaction or to an agent, representative, or other intermediary therein where such intermediary is acting in fact for or in behalf, or is subject to the direct or indirect control, of any party to such transaction other than the person by whom such compensation is so granted or paid.

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities

(d)Payment for services or facilities for processing or sale. It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce to pay or contract for the payment of anything of value to or for the benefit of a customer of such person in the course of such commerce as compensation or in consideration for any services or facilities furnished by or through such customer in connection with the processing, handling, sale, or offering for sale of any products or commodities manufactured, sold, or offered for sale by such person, unless such payment or consideration is available on proportionally equal terms to all other customers competing in the distribution of such products or commodities.

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities

(e)Furnishing services or facilities for processing, handling, etc. It shall be unlawful for any person to discriminate in favor of one purchaser against another purchaser or purchasers of a commodity bought for resale, with or without processing, by contracting to furnish or furnishing, or by contributing to the furnishing of, any services or facilities connected with the processing, handling, sale, or offering for sale of such commodity so purchased upon terms not accorded to all purchasers on proportionally equal terms.

15 U.S.C. Section 13 – Discrimination in price, services, or facilities

(f)Knowingly inducing or receiving discriminatory price. It shall be unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price which is prohibited by this section. Enacted: October 15, 1914, as amended June 19, 1936.

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