Antitrust Law–Restraint of Trade–Antitrust Implications of the Exchange of Price Information Among Competitors: The Container Corporation Case

Traditionally, it has not proved difficult to find policy considerations which justify the existence of programs of price information exchange among competitors. There has been widespread agreement that businessmen require knowledge of all the economic forces which affect their operations. Justice Holmes once said: “I should have thought that the ideal of commerce was an intelligent interchange made with full knowledge of the facts as a basis for the forecast of the future on both sides.” Similarly, Justice Brandeis commented that “[t]he Sherman Law … certainly does not command that competition shall be pursued blindly, that business rivals shall remain ignorant of trade facts or be denied aid in weighing their significance.” It has traditionally been accepted that the competitive ideal, which serves as the ratio essendi for the antitrust laws, is best served by full knowledge on the part of buyers and sellers of their respective choices. It is admitted that the pattern of transaction prices in a market characterized by full knowledge would be different from the pattern in a market characterized by ignorance. Some prices would be higher, some would be lower. Some customers would be denied bargains and some would gain them. But an essential order, a stability would be introduced into the system and arguably would enable the system to operate more efficiently than would random confusion.