§ 240.13 Customer
's and third party liability.
(a) Customer's liability. Sections 2(d) and (e) apply to sellers and not to customers. However, where there is likely injury to competition, the Commission may proceed under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act against a customer who knows, or should know, that it is receiving a discriminatory price through services or allowances not made available on proportionally equal terms to its competitors engaged in the resale of a seller's product. Liability for knowingly receiving such a discrimination may result whether the discrimination takes place directly through payments or services, or indirectly through deductions from purchase invoices or other similar means. In addition, the giving or knowing inducement or receipt of proportionally unequal promotional allowances may be challenged under sections 2(a) and 2(f) of the Act, respectively, where no promotional services are performed in return for the payments, or where the payments are not reasonably related to the customer's cost of providing the promotional services. See, e.g., American Booksellers Ass'n v. Barnes & Noble, 135 F. Supp. 2d 1031 (N.D. Cal. 2001); but see United Magazine Co. v. Murdoch Magazines Distrib., Inc. 2001 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20878 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). Sections 2(a) and 2(f) of the Act may be enforced by disfavored customers, among others.
A customer should not induce or receive advertising allowances for special promotion of the seller's product in connection with the customer's anniversary sale or new store opening when the customer knows or should know that such allowances, or suitable alternatives, are not available on proportionally equal terms to all other customers competing with it in the distribution of the seller's product.
Frequently the employees of sellers or third parties, such as brokers, perform in-store services for their grocery retailer customers, such as stocking of shelves, building of displays and checking or rotating inventory, etc. A customer operating a retail grocery business should not induce or receive such services when the customer knows or should know that such services (or usable and suitable alternative services) are not available on proportionally equal terms to all other customers competing with it in the distribution of the seller's product.
Where a customer has entered into a contract, understanding, or arrangement for the purchase of advertising with a newspaper or other advertising medium, such as the Internet, that provides for a deferred rebate or other reduction in the price of the advertising, the customer should advise any seller from whom reimbursement for the advertising is claimed that the claimed rate of reimbursement is subject to a deferred rebate or other reduction in price. In the event that any rebate or adjustment in the price is received, the customer should refund to the seller the amount of any excess payment or allowance.
A customer should not induce or receive an allowance in excess of that offered in the seller's advertising plan by billing the seller at “vendor rates” or for any other amount in excess of that authorized in the seller's promotional program.
(b) Third party liability. Third parties, such as advertising media, may violate section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act through double or fictitious rates or billing. An advertising medium, such as the Internet, a newspaper, broadcast station, or printer of catalogues, that publishes a rate schedule containing fictitious rates (or rates that are not reasonably expected to be applicable to a representative number of advertisers), may violate section 5 if the customer uses such deceptive schedule or invoice for a claim for an advertising allowance, payment or credit greater than that to which it would be entitled under the seller's promotional offering. Similarly, an advertising medium that furnishes a customer with an invoice that does not reflect the customer's actual net advertising cost may violate section 5 if the customer uses the invoice to obtain larger payments than it is entitled to receive.
A newspaper has a “national” rate and a lower “local” rate. A retailer places an advertisement with the newspaper at the local rate for a seller's product for which the retailer will seek reimbursement under the seller's cooperative advertising plan. The newspaper should not send the retailer two bills, one at the national rate and another at the local rate actually charged.
A newspaper has several published rates. A large retailer has in the past earned the lowest rate available. The newspaper should not submit invoices to the retailer showing a high rate by agreement between them unless the invoice discloses that the retailer may receive a rebate and states the amount (or approximate amount) of the rebate, if known, and if not known, the amount of rebate the retailer could reasonably anticipate.
A radio station has a flat rate for spot announcements, subject to volume discounts. A retailer buys enough spots to qualify for the discounts. The station should not submit an invoice to the retailer that does not show either the actual net cost or the discount rate.
An advertising agent buys a large volume of newspaper advertising space at a low, unpublished negotiated rate. Retailers then buy the space from the agent at a rate lower than they could buy this space directly from the newspaper. The agent should not furnish the retailers invoices showing a rate higher than the retailers actually paid for the space.