Restraint of Trade–Trading Stamps–The Federal Trade Commission and the Green Stamp: The Effect upon Competition of Restrictions on Distribution and Redemption of Trading Stamps

Sperry and Hutchinson Company (S & H), the largest trading stamp company in the United States, has maintained two policies throughout its seventy-two years of business. The one-for-ten policy requires retailers licensed by S & H to issue stamps to consumers at the rate of one stamp for every ten cents worth of merchandise purchased. The intent of this policy is to prevent retailers from engaging in “multiple stamping”-the practice of giving more than one stamp for every ten-cent purchase. This restricted rate of issuance is maintained through contractual agreements between the stamp company and its licensees. The second policy that the company has pursued has as its goal preventing redemption of S & H stamps at any place other than S & H “redemption centers.” This effort is directed primarily at the independent trading stamp exchanges and independent retail outlets which redeem various kinds of stamps. Acting alone and with other stamp companies, S & H has effectively suppressed such redemption activity with litigation and threats of legal action. As might be expected, all of these practices generated a good deal of litigation, most of it initiated by S & H or its licensees asserting that the restrictions should be enforced. However, in Sperry & Hutchinson Co. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently challenged both policies under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.