Minnesota Antitrust Act: How are Businesses and Consumers Protected?

The Minnesota Antitrust Act prohibits companies from conspiring together to unreasonably restrain their competitors or unreasonably restrain the availability of products in order to benefit themselves financially. What does this mean? Here are a few specifics.

Minnesota Antitrust Act Definitions

Before we get into what the Minnesota Antitrust Act covers, here are a few important definitions.

Commodity

“Commodity” means any goods, merchandise, wares, produce, chose in action, land, article of commerce, or any other tangible or intangible property, real, personal, or mixed, for use, consumption, enjoyment, or resale.

Service

“Service” means any kind of activity performed in whole or in part for financial gain.

Contract, combination, or conspiracy

“Contract, combination, or conspiracy” means any agreement, arrangement, collusion, or understanding. “Contract” includes a purchase, a contract to purchase, a sale, a contract to sell, a lease, a contract to lease, a license, or a contract to license. “Combination” includes a trust, common selling or purchasing agent, pool, or holding company.

Person

“Person” means any individual, corporation, firm, partnership, incorporated and unincorporated association, or any other legal or commercial entity.

Trade or commerce

“Trade or commerce” means any economic activity of any type whatsoever involving any commodity or service whatsoever.

The Minnesota Antitrust Act provides that “[a] contract, combination, or conspiracy between two or more persons in unreasonable restraint of trade or commerce is unlawful.”

Prohibited Acts Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act

Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act, the following are illegal:

(1) A contract, combination, or conspiracy between two or more persons in competition:

(a) for the purpose or with the effect of affecting, fixing, controlling or maintaining the market price, rate, or fee of any commodity or service;

(b) affecting, fixing, controlling, maintaining, limiting, or discontinuing the production, manufacture, mining, sale or supply of any commodity, or the sale or supply of any service, for the purpose or with the effect of affecting, fixing, controlling, or maintaining the market price, rate, or fee of the commodity or service; or

(c) allocating or dividing customers or markets, functional or geographical, for any commodity or service.

(2) A contract, combination, or conspiracy between two or more persons whereby, in the letting of any public contract, (a) the price quotation of any bid is fixed or controlled, (b) one or more persons refrains from the submission of a bid, or (c) competition is in any other manner restrained.

(3) A contract, combination, or conspiracy between two or more persons refusing to deal with another person, except a refusal to deal by associations, trading boards, or exchanges when predicated upon a failure to comply with rules of membership.

With certain limitations, the following acts are also unlawful under the Minnesota Antitrust Act:

(1) Requiring any United States person to be excluded from a business transaction on the basis of that person’s sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin or on the basis that the person conducts or has conducted business with persons of a particular race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, or on the basis that the person has done business in a particular country.

(2) Giving, as part of any business transaction, any statement, certification or other document to the effect that the giver of the statement, certification or other document has complied with a policy imposed by any person, nation, or international organization requiring exclusion from any business transaction, or discrimination against, any United States person on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin or on the basis that the person conducts or has conducted business with persons of a particular race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, or on the basis that the person has done business in a particular country.

(3) Granting, accepting or processing any letter of credit or other document which evidences the transfer of funds or credit, or entering into any contract for the exchange of goods or services, where the letter of credit, contract, or other document contains any provision which requires any person to discriminate against or to certify that the person has not dealt with any other United States person on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, or on the basis that the person conducts or has conducted business with persons of a particular race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, or on the basis that the person has done business in a particular country.

(4) As part of any business transaction, complying, or agreeing to comply, or certifying or giving other assurance of compliance or agreement to comply, with a policy imposed by another party requiring discrimination against, or refusal to deal with, any United States person, group of United States persons, or list of United States persons, on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin or on the basis that the person, group of persons or list of persons conducts or has conducted business with persons of a particular race, sex, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, or on the basis that the person has done business in a particular country.

Penalties Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act

Civil Penalties – Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act, the court may impose civil penalties:

Any person who is found to have violated sections 325D.49 to 325D.66, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $50,000. Any person who fails to comply with a final judgment or decree rendered by a court of this state issued for a violation of sections 325D.49 to 325D.66, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $100,000.

Criminal Penalties – Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act, the court may impose criminal penalties:

Any person who is found to have willfully committed any of the acts enumerated in section 325D.53 shall be guilty of a felony and subject to a fine of not more than $50,000 or imprisonment in the state penitentiary for not more than seven years, or both.

Right to Triple Damages Plus Attorney’s Fees

Under the Minnesota Antitrust Act, anyone injured by a violation of the Minnesota Antitrust Act, shall recover three times the actual damages sustained, together with costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. In addition, Minnesota courts are authorized to grant temporary, interlocutory, or permanent injunctive relief as necessary to prevent and restrain violations of the Minnesota Antitrust Act.

Federal Antitrust Law

Antitrust issues in Minnesota should also be analyzed under federal antitrust law in addition to the Minnesota Antitrust Act. A number of federal statutes have developed over the years to prohibit or restrain monopolistic and unfair business practices. Federal antitrust laws include

  • The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887
  • Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 (“The Sherman Act”)
  • The Clayton Antitrust Act
  • The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914
  • The Robinson-Patman Act of 1936
  • The Celler-Kefauver Act of 1959

Learn More about the Minnesota Antitrust Act

The full text of the Minnesota Antitrust Act is provided in Minnesota Statutes sections 325D.01 to 325D.07. If you are facing an antitrust issue, you should consult with an experienced Minnesota antitrust lawyer.