Yes, there are a lot of laws designed to protect both consumers and other businesses from shady dealings from businesses. These laws generally fall into two categories, Antitrust laws and consumer protection laws.
Antitrust laws prohibit behavior that prevents fair competition, which can also be called monopolies. Antitrust laws also prevent unfair business practices. Antitrust laws are designed to encourage competition in the marketplace. Antitrust laws also make some practices deemed to hurt businesses or consumers or both, or those practices that violate standards of ethical behavior illegal. As an example, Antitrust laws prohibit monopolization and attempted monopolization, agreements in restraint of trade, anticompetitive mergers and tie-in schemes, and price discrimination in the sale of commodities (in certain cases).
Some examples of Antitrust violations include companies deciding together on the price of a part that is sold to manufacturers; grocery stores in a small town deciding what a gallon of milk should cost; and a leader in a certain industry taking actions to hurt companies in another industry. As you can see from, it can be hard to tell whether a particular action could be a violation of Antitrust laws or not. If you have questions about whether a particular action could be a violation of Antitrust rules, it’s usually best to contact an attorney with significant experience in Antitrust matters.
Under Antitrust rules, both the federal government and states’ Attorneys General may bring Antitrust actions. In addition, private civil suits may also be brought, in both California state and federal court, against violators of state and federal antitrust laws. Federal Antitrust laws, as well as most state laws, provide for treble (three times) damages against Antitrust violators in order to encourage private lawsuit enforcement of Antitrust law.
Another area of the law that is similar to Antitrust law in some respects is consumer protection law. Consumer protection laws seeks to regulate certain aspects of the commercial relationship between consumers and business, such as by requiring minimum standards of product quality, requiring the disclosure of certain details about a product or service (e.g., with regard to cost or implied warranty), prohibiting misleading advertising, or prescribing financial compensation for product liability. Consumer protection laws can be both state and federal, and can help consumers who have faced financial losses, injuries, or other negative consequences because of an issue with a consumer product.
Some examples of violations of consumer protection laws could include a consumer who fell ill after using a contaminated prescription drug, a parent who purchased a toy for an infant that was very dangerous, a shopper who went to a store because of advertised sales only to find out the sales weren’t there, or any other major problem with a product and its advertising.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty has significant experience representing both consumers and businesses in Antitrust cases and consumer protection cases, prosecuting violations of both state and federal law. She works with clients in the Oakland – San Francisco Bay area, including Fairfield, Berkeley, Hayward and Tracy. Call her at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000.