Unfair Methods of Competition in the 1920s

A sample of “condemned” business practices the Agency identified in its 1920 annual report include:[1]

  • Adulteration of commodities, misrepresenting them as pure or selling them under such names and circumstances that the purchaser would be misled into believing them to be pure.
  • Procuring the business or trade secrets of competitors by espionage, by bribing their employees, or by similar means.
  • Procuring breach of competitors’ contracts for the sale of products by misrepresentation or by other means.
  • Inducing employees of competitors to violate their contracts or enticing away employees of competitors in such numbers or under such circumstances as to hamper or embarrass them in business.
  • Making false or disparaging statements respecting competitors’ products, their business, financial credit, etc.
  • Making vague and indefinite threats of patent infringement suits against the trade generally.
  • False claims to patents or misrepresenting the scope of patents.
  • Intimidation for the purpose of accomplishing enforced dealing by falsely charging disloyalty to the Government.
  • Tampering with and misadjusting the machines sold by competitors for the purpose of discrediting them with purchaser.
  • Unauthorized appropriation of the results of a competitor’s ingenuity, labor and expense, thereby avoiding costs otherwise necessarily involved in production.
  • Preventing competitors from procuring advertising space in newspapers or other periodicals by misrepresenting their standings or other misrepresentation calculated to prejudice advertising hated to prejudice advertising mediums against them.
  • Harassing competitors by fake requests for estimates on bills of goods, for catalogues, etc.
  • Sales of goods at cost, coupled with statements misleading the public into the belief that they are sold at a profit.
  • Any and all schemes for compelling wholesalers and retailers to maintain resale prices on products fixed by the manufacturer.
  • Combinations of competitors to enhance prices, maintain prices, bring about substantial uniformity in prices, or to divide territory or business.

[1] FTC, Annual Report 1920, Sept. 16, 1920; see also Gilbert Holland Montague, Unfair Methods of Competition, 25(1) The Yale Law Journal 20 (1915); FTC, Memorandum on Unfair Competition at the Common Law (1916).

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