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FTC ruling now final against dental suppliers accused of violating antitrust laws

November 18, 2019 3570

Two large, national dental supply companies charged in October with violating U.S. antitrust laws have declined to appeal the decision to the federal district court, according to a Nov. 8 news release from the Federal Trade Commission. 

In an interim decision last month, an administrative law judge for the FTC held that Benco Dental Supply Company and Patterson Companies Inc. conspired to refuse to provide discounts to, or otherwise serve, buying groups representing dental practitioners.

The parties had 30 days to appeal but declined and the FTC did not file to review the case, which makes the Oct. 7 ruling against Benco and Patterson final according to FTC rules.

The FTC complaint was filed in May 2018. In the initial review of emails, internal and interfirm communications and other evidence dating as early as 2012, the FTC charged that, “The Distributors feared that Buying Groups would drive down prices and threaten their profit margins, and they sought to prevent independent dentists from obtaining greater bargaining power through Buying Groups.”

Entering into a horizontal agreement to restrain price competition is a violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.

The complaint initially named Henry Schein as one of the three conspirators, but the judge in his interim decision dismissed the charges against Henry Schein. The judge also dismissed the allegation that Benco invited a fourth competing distributor to join the conspiracy. All three companies in 2018 publicly denied the charges and vowed to fight them.

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