Current Issue

Volume 79, Number 4

October 2004

Lepage’s v. 3M: An Antitrust Analysis of Loyalty Rebates

Joanna Warren

In its en banc decision in LePage’s Inc. v. 3M, the Third Circuit held that a 3M loyalty rebate program, which provided above-cost price discounts to customers who purchased multiple 3M product lines, violated section 2 of the Sherman Act. Prior to this decision, many practitioners and scholars understood the antitrust case law to hold that a strategic pricing scheme would not violate section 2 so long as the discounted prices remained above cost. The Third Circuit found that this test applies only to predatory pricing cases, and ruled that claims alleging exclusionary conduct other than predatory pricing—as it characterized 3M’s loyalty rebate program—are cognizable under section 2 even without a showing of below-cost pricing. The Supreme Court recently denied certiorari in LePage’s, leaving the issue in the hands of the lower courts. In this Comment, Joanna Warren criticizes the Third Circuit’s decision as lacking sufficient economic analysis of the rebate scheme and providing unclear guidance for addressing future claims. She argues for the adoption of a test that would recognize above-cost pricing as generally legitimate while invalidating schemes that threaten to eliminate equally efficient competitors from the marketplace.