9710039
B241961

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BEFORE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

In the Matter of

FASTLINE PUBLICATIONS, INC., and MID-AMERICA EQUIPMENT RETAILERS ASSOCIATION, corporations.

Docket No. C-3819

COMPLAINT

Pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 41 et seq., and by virtue of the authority vested in it by said Act, the Federal Trade Commission, having reason to believe that Fastline Publications, Inc. ("Fastline"), and Mid- America Equipment Retailers Association ("Mid-America"), hereinafter sometimes referred to as respondents, have violated and are violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 45, and it appearing to the Commission that a proceeding by it in respect thereof would be in the public interest, hereby issues this complaint, stating its charges as follows:

PARAGRAPH ONE: For purposes of this complaint, the following definitions shall apply:

A. "Fastline" means Fastline Publications, Inc., its directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns; its subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by Fastline, and the respective directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, successors, and assigns of each.

B. "Kentucky Retailers Association" means the Kentucky Farm and Power Equipment Retailers Association, its directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns; its subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by the Kentucky Retailers Association, and the respective directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, successors, and assigns of each.

C. "Mid-America" means the Mid-America Equipment Retailers Association, its directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns; its subsidiaries, divisions, groups and affiliates controlled by Mid-America, and the respective directors, officers, employees, agents and representatives, successors, and assigns of each.

D. "Person" means any natural person, corporate entity, partnership, association, joint venture, government entity, trust, or other entity.

PARAGRAPH TWO:

A. Fastline is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Kentucky, with its principal office and place of business located at 4900 Fox Run Road, Buckner, Kentucky 40010.

B. Fastline is engaged in the business of publishing and publishes, among other things, picture buying guides for new and used farm equipment under the name "Fastline." Farm equipment advertised in Fastline ranges from lawn mowers to heavy duty farm equipment such as tractors, plows, planters, cotton pickers, and combines. Fastline currently publishes 20 monthly editions of its farm equipment buying guides, serving 41 states. Thirteen editions are state-specific editions (e.g., Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition); and seven are regional editions (e.g., Fastline Southeast Farm Edition (covering Georgia, Florida, and Alabama)). Approximately 20,000 copies of each edition are distributed free of charge each month. Farm equipment dealers view the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition as a key vehicle for advertising to farmers in Kentucky. Fastline’s principal source of revenue is its advertisers who pay from a few hundred dollars per month per edition for a half page, black and white advertisement, to more than a thousand dollars per month per edition for a two-page, full color advertisement.

PARAGRAPH THREE:

A. Mid-America is a not-for-profit corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Indiana. Its principal office and place of business are located at 9800 Association Court, Indianapolis, Indiana 46280. Mid-America was formed in 1992 through the merger of the Indiana Implement Dealers Association, Inc., and the Kentucky Retailers Association. At the time of the merger, the members of the Indiana Implement Dealers Association and the Kentucky Retailers Association became members of Mid-America.

B. Mid-America is a trade association organized in substantial part to represent the interests of its members. Mid-America has approximately 500 members, constituting approximately 90% of the farm equipment dealers in Indiana and Kentucky. Mid-America engages in substantial activities that further its members’ pecuniary interests. By virtue of its purposes and activities, Mid-America is a corporation within the meaning of Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 44.

C. Most of Mid-America’s members are farm equipment dealers engaged in the advertising, offering for sale, and sale of agri-business, outdoor power, farm, industrial and construction equipment and products or services in Indiana and Kentucky. Except to the extent that competition has been restrained as alleged herein, Mid-America’s members have been and are now in competition among themselves and with other farm equipment dealers.

PARAGRAPH FOUR: The acts and practices of the respondents, including the acts and practices alleged herein, are in or affect commerce, as "commerce" is defined in the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45.

PARAGRAPH FIVE:

A. The Kentucky Retailers Association and members of the Kentucky Retailers Association have combined or conspired between and among themselves to restrain trade in the advertising, offering for sale, and sale of new farm equipment, by agreeing to cancel or agreeing to threaten to cancel advertising in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition in retaliation for Fastline publishing prices for new farm equipment.

B. The Kentucky Retailers Association, Fastline, and members of the Kentucky Retailers Association have combined or conspired between and among themselves to restrain trade in the advertising, offering for sale, and sale of new farm equipment, by agreeing not to advertise prices for new farm equipment in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition.

C. Mid-America, Fastline, and members of Mid-America have combined or conspired between and among themselves to restrain trade in the advertising, offering for sale, and sale of new farm equipment, by agreeing not to advertise prices for new farm equipment in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition.

PARAGRAPH SIX: The Kentucky Retailers Association, members of the Kentucky Retailers Association, Mid-America, members of Mid-America, and Fastline have engaged in various acts and practices in furtherance of this combination or conspiracy, including, among other things:

A. In or about February 1991, the Kentucky Retailers Association and at least some of the Kentucky Retailers Association’s members withdrew or otherwise canceled, or urged other members to withdraw or otherwise cancel, advertisements in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition in retaliation for Fastline publishing advertisements that included prices for new equipment;

B. In or about February 1992: (1) the Kentucky Retailers Association and at least some member of the Kentucky Retailers Association threatened to withdraw or otherwise cancel advertisements in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition if Fastline continued to publish advertisements that included prices for new equipment; and (2) as a result, Fastline, the Kentucky Retailers Association, and the members of the Kentucky Retailers Association agreed not to advertise prices for new farm equipment in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition; and

C. In or about June 1993: (1) Mid-America and members of Mid-America urged Fastline to abstain from publishing prices for new equipment and parts in all Fastline farm equipment buying guides; and (2) as a result, Fastline, Mid-America, and the members of Mid- America agreed not to advertise prices for new farm equipment in the Fastline Kentucky Farm Edition.

PARAGRAPH SEVEN: The acts and practices of the respondents, as described in Paragraphs Five and Six, have had the purpose or effect, or the tendency and capacity, to restrain competition unreasonably and to deprive consumers of the benefits of competition in one or more of the following ways, among others:

A. by reducing and restraining price competition among farm equipment dealers for new farm equipment;

B. by depriving consumers of truthful and nondeceptive price information concerning farm equipment dealers’ products; and

C. by depriving consumers of the benefits of competition among farm equipment dealers in the advertising, offering for sale, and sale of new farm equipment.

PARAGRAPH EIGHT: The aforesaid acts and practices of the respondents are to the prejudice and injury of the public and constitute unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45. The acts and practices of the respondents, as herein alleged, are continuing and will continue or recur in the absence of the relief requested.

WHEREFORE, THE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Federal Trade Commission on this twenty-eighth day of July, 1998, issues its complaint against said respondents.

By the Commission.

Donald S. Clark
Secretary

[SEAL]