UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In the Matter of
Fair Allocation System, Inc., a corporation.
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 Fair Allocation System, Inc. (hereafter "respondent") has violated the provisions of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 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: Respondent Fair Allocation System, Inc. is an incorporated association of franchised automobile dealerships (primarily Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Eagle), existing and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Montana, with a mailing address at P.O. Box 1691, Helena, Montana 59624.
PARAGRAPH TWO: Respondent was formed by its member dealers as an entity through which its members could communicate with Chrysler Corp. ("Chrysler") concerning Chrysler policies and how those policies might affect respondent's members. Respondent's members were initially concerned about the practices of a competing dealer whose low prices and Internet advertising were attracting car buyers from a broad geographic area and taking sales from respondent's members. Respondent's members had previously asked Chrysler to reduce the number of vehicles it allocates to this dealer, but Chrysler had refused. Respondent has approximately 25 members, who are generally engaged in the retail sale of new Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Eagle automobiles. In addition to new car sales, respondent's members provide service on Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Eagle automobiles, including warranty work. Member dealerships are located principally in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana, where they constitute a substantial percentage of the Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Eagle dealerships. In cities and towns along Interstate 90 between Ellensburg, Washington, and Missoula, Montana, for example, seven of 11 such dealerships are members of respondent. Except to the extent that competition has been restrained as alleged herein, respondent's members have been and are now in competition among themselves and with other automobile dealerships.
PARAGRAPH THREE: Respondent's acts and practices, including the acts and practices alleged herein, are in or affecting commerce, as "commerce" is defined in the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 44.
PARAGRAPH FOUR: Respondent is organized for the purpose of guarding and fostering the interests of its members. Respondent engages in activities that further its members' pecuniary interests. By virtue of its purposes and activities, respondent is a corporation organized for the profit of its members within the meaning of Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 44.
PARAGRAPH FIVE: Respondent has been and is acting, or has attempted to act, in agreement, combination or conspiracy with some of its members to restrain trade in the sale of new Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep and Eagle automobiles by threatening to boycott particular models and limit warranty service to particular customers unless Chrysler modifies its system for allocating vehicles to its dealers. Instead of allocating vehicles based on each dealer's total sales volume, as Chrysler does now, respondent demanded that Chrysler allocate vehicles based on each dealer's sales volume from within its local area.
PARAGRAPH SIX: The purposes or effects of respondent's agreement, combination or conspiracy, or attempted agreement, combination or conspiracy, as described in Paragraph Five, have been and are, or would be, to restrain competition unreasonably and to deprive consumers of the benefits of competition in one or more of the following ways, among others:
PARAGRAPH SEVEN: The aforesaid acts and practices herein alleged were and 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 respondent, as herein alleged, are continuing and will continue in the absence of the relief requested.
WHEREFORE, THE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Federal Trade Commission, on this twenty-second day of October, 1998, issues its Complaint against said respondent.
By the Commission.
Donald S. Clark