paro12 and i_like_spam informed us of a 5-4 decision by the US Supreme Court which abandons a 96-year-old ban on manufacturers and retailers setting price floors for products. The Slashdot community discussed the issue when the case was argued back in March. The ruling means that anti-competitive complaints based on price-fixing will have to be argued case-by-case and will be harder to prove. Discounts and discounters in all venues may be under pressure, with internet sales possibly the hardest hit. "Importantly, this case points a dagger at the heart of the most consumer-friendly aspects of the Internet. The Internet has shifted power to the consumer in two ways. First, it allows consumers to search for and gather information in a cost-effective, efficient manner. Second, it provides a low-cost means of retailing, making it easy for discounters to offer products to the public. This combination squeezes excess profits and inefficiencies out of product prices. Retail price maintenance seeks to short circuit this extremely consumer friendly process. By setting minimum prices, manufacturers can build in excess margins for themselves and for their favored retailers -- prices that consumers have no choice but to pay."
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