Antitrust Unit

The Antitrust Unit investigates complaints alleging violations of state and federal antitrust laws within the State of Rhode Island. Because of their complexity and the large amount of anticipated discovery, the Attorney General investigates many matters as a member of various multistate working groups.

The Rhode Island Antitrust Act gives the Attorney General the statutory authority to institute suit against persons, corporations and other legal entities that are in violation of state or federal antitrust laws. The General Assembly enacted the Antitrust Act in 1979 and it applies to every type of economic activity having an impact on trade or commerce in Rhode Island adequate to support the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. The Act contains analogues to Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and Section 3 of the Clayton Act.

One multistate matter where the settlement became final and provides benefits to many Rhode Island residents was In re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation. The Attorneys General had alleged that certain book publishing companies had colluded to fix the sales price of electronic books. The settlement agreement between the States and the publishing companies that were the targets of this multistate investigation and subsequent defendants in the antitrust enforcement action resulted in injunctive relief and a payment to the States of about $2.5 million. This money is to be used for reimbursement of litigation and investigation costs, attorneys’ fees and consumer protection and education expenses. The terms of the settlement agreement also requires the publishing companies to make restitution to consumers. Pursuant to the settlement, the State of Rhode Island received approximately $41,600 and qualifying Rhode Island consumers received approximately $254,087.

The Attorney General also participated in multistate investigations of possible antitrust violations in the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare industry, the office information technology industry, the agricultural industry, matters involving the rights of indirect purchasers, industries that use vertical restraints, the credit rating industry, and the gasoline industry. The Attorney General, in cooperation with other states and the Federal Trade Commission, also participated in investigations of proposed mergers.