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Robinson-Patman Act


The Robinson-Patman Act is a United States federal law enacted in 1936 designed to prohibit anti-competitive practices by producers, specifically price discrimination. It seeks to protect small businesses from larger businesses by prohibiting discounts on bulk purchases unless they don’t harm competition. The Act also forbids businesses from using unfair practices to create or maintain a monopoly.


The phonetics of the keyword “Robinson-Patman Act” would be: “Rah-bin-sun-Pat-man Act”

Key Takeaways

Three Main Takeaways about Robinson-Patman Act:

  1. Introduction of Anti-Discrimination Measures: The Robinson-Patman Act introduced significant anti-discrimination measures into the world of commerce. The Act restricts the ability of businesses to engage in price discrimination, which is the practice of selling the same product to different customers at different prices.
  2. Protection of Small Businesses: The Act has a primary aim of protecting small businesses from being driven out by larger companies. Larger firms often have the power to negotiate lower prices from suppliers, which they can use to undercut smaller rivals. The Robinson-Patman Act prevents this by mandating that suppliers offer the same price to all buyers, irrespective of their size or the volume they purchase.
  3. Regulations and Penalties: The Robinson-Patman Act not only regulated these trade activities but also enacted possible strict penalties for those who violate the Act’s provisions. These penalties can include fines, imprisonment, and private lawsuits. Hence, companies must ensure compliance to avoid legal troubles and financial hits.


The Robinson-Patman Act is vital in business and finance because it promotes fair trade and competition by preventing price discrimination, where different prices are charged for the same product. It was enacted in the United States in 1936 to specifically forbid businesses from selling the same goods to different buyers at various prices. This act aims to protect small businesses by prohibiting unfair competition from large scale firms that have the ability to price their goods lower due to high-volume purchases. These prohibitions help ensure a balanced marketplace where different businesses, regardless of their size, can compete on an equal footing.


The Robinson-Patman Act, enacted in 1936, was designed to protect small businesses from certain types of price discrimination and to promote competition. Its primary purpose is to prevent large businesses from leveraging their purchasing power to gain a pricing advantage over smaller enterprises. This system enhances economic fairness and seeks to create an environment where companies of all sizes can compete more effectively.This federal law achieves its purpose by prohibiting any firm engaged in interstate commerce from charging different prices to different purchasers for the same commodity if the result would decrease competition or create a monopoly. For instance, manufacturers cannot provide additional rebates, discounts, or concessions to one buyer over another if it would result in a significant price difference. However, there are some exceptions, such as pricing differences that can be justified due to cost differences in serving different buyers. Thus, the Robinson-Patman Act helps to maintain a level playing field in the world of business by regulating pricing practices.


1. Example 1: Supermarket Chains – A significant example of enforcing the Robinson-Patman Act appeared in the case of supermarket chains. The larger supermarket chains were able to obtain products at lower prices than their smaller competitors due to bulk purchases. The Act has been used to prevent these pricing discrepancies, ensuring that small businesses aren’t pushed out of the market by larger competitors who can afford to sell goods at lower prices.2. Example 2: Wholesale Retailer Violation- In 2000, Costco Wholesale Corporation had to pay a $3.86 million fine for violating the Robinson-Patman Act, which was disclosed in an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. Costco was found guilty for receiving payments from suppliers and distributors that were not made available to all competing customers. 3. Example 3: Pharmaceutical Industry – The Act was used in the case of Merck & Co., a leading pharmaceutical company who were allegedly providing different prices to different hospitals and HMOs, thereby causing injury to competition in violation of the Robinson-Patman Act. This was a vital reminder to pharmaceutical companies about following the Robinson-Patman rules regarding pricing.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Robinson-Patman Act?

The Robinson-Patman Act, enacted in 1936, is a United States federal law that prohibits discrimination in pricing, promotional allowances, and advertising by suppliers of commodities among different purchasers if it threatens to lessen competition or create a monopoly.

Why was the Robinson-Patman Act created?

The act was designed to protect small businesses from predatory pricing practices by larger companies and maintain fair competition. It originated as an amendment to the Clayton Act, which also aimed to prevent anti-competitive practices in the industry.

What are the main features of the Robinson-Patman Act?

The Act makes it illegal for sellers to discriminate in the price or terms of sale of goods bought for use within the United States, along with other activities such as false advertising, predatory pricing, restrictive trade agreements, and discriminatory service allowances.

What types of pricing discriminations are prohibited by the Robinson-Patman Act?

The Act forbids any discrimination in price between different purchasers of the same commodity — such as selling the same product at different prices to different customers, or offering more favorable payment terms to some customers over others.

How is the Robinson-Patman Act enforced?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the act. It has the authority to initiate legal action against companies believed to be in violation of the act.

What is the impact of the Robinson-Patman Act on businesses?

The act forces businesses to adopt fair pricing policies, creating a more balanced and competitive market environment. It restricts larger businesses from employing predatory pricing strategies to drive out competitors, and facilitates smaller businesses to compete on a more level playing field.

Are there any exceptions to the Robinson-Patman Act?

Yes, the Act allows for price differences that result from cost savings for the seller or that are given in response to a competitor’s pricing, which do not harm competition.

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