Complaint alleges publisher invited competitor to collude
Oregon Lithoprint Inc., owner of the News-Register, a twice-weekly community newspaper based in Yamhill, Oreg., has agreed to settle FTC charges that it invited a competitor to collude in an arrangement to divide the market for placement of foreclosure notices.
Oregon law requires that a party foreclosing on real estate must provide public notice of the impending foreclosure in a qualifying newspaper. According to the complaint, Oregon Lithoprint’s News-Register competes against The Newberg Graphic to sell foreclosure notices in their newspaper publications. The complaint alleges that in August 2016, the News-Register invited The Newberg Graphic to forego this competition and instead divide the Yamhill County market for foreclosure notices based on subscription volumes within different zip codes. The complaint alleges that this invitation to collude was in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and that the alleged actions constitute an unfair method of competition.
In order to resolve the allegations contained in the Complaint, Oregon Lithoprint, Inc. has agreed to a consent agreement whereby it will be prohibited from entering, or attempting to enter into any agreement to refuse to publish legal notices or allocate customers for the publication of legal notices. The company also will be prohibited from communicating with a competitor regarding advising customers to place foreclosure notices in the newspaper with the widest circulation in the area where the property is located, and will be prohibited from refusing to publish notices for properties located in a competitor’s primary distribution area.
Further details about the consent agreement, which includes an order to maintain assets, are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 2-0. The FTC will publish the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through April 10, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments can be filed electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $40,654.
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