Undoing the Otherwise Perfect Crime: Applying Unjust Enrichment to Consumer Price-Fixing Claims

39 Pages Posted: 4 May 2014

See all articles by Daniel Karon

Daniel Karon

Independent; Columbia Law School

Date Written: December 1, 2005

Abstract

Price-fixing agreements violate federal and state antitrust statutes as well as certain states’ consumer-protection statutes. When price fixing occurs, the price-fixed products’ direct purchasers have standing to pursue claims for their overcharges under the federal antitrust statutes in federal court, but consumers are permitted to allege price-fixing claims only under certain states’ antitrust or consumer-protection statutes. Where state statutory remedies don’t necessarily exist, unjust enrichment is a viable yet commonly misunderstood and oftentimes overlooked remedy that consumers can invoke. But when consumers allege unjust enrichment, price fixers invariably argue its misapplication — claiming that unjust enrichment requires a “direct relationship” or “direct benefit” between the parties. Despite price fixers’ contrary insistence, I describe the antitrust bar, judiciary, consumers, and price fixers’ conventional misunderstandings about unjust enrichment’s application and intended purpose. My article then explains that unjust enrichment’s state-by-state similarity and historical roots actually encourage and support unjust enrichment’s application to consumer price-fixing claims. In this manner, I argue that — through unjust enrichment — all states’ consumers have a powerful tool with which to help stem price fixing and with which to ensure that they derive the privileges and benefits of a free, open, and competitive marketplace.

Keywords: unjust enrichment, privity, direct benefit, direct relationship

Suggested Citation

Karon, Daniel and Karon, Daniel, Undoing the Otherwise Perfect Crime: Applying Unjust Enrichment to Consumer Price-Fixing Claims (December 1, 2005). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 108, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2432377

Daniel Karon (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Independent ( email )

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