Trade Regulation–Price Discrimination–Liability for “Fourth Level” Injury Falls Within the Scope of Section 2(a) of the Clayton Act, as Amended by the Robinson-Patman Act–Perkins v. Standard Oil Company of California

During the mid-1950’s Clyde A. Perkins, a major independent wholesaler and retailer operating in the states of Washington and Oregon, bought substantial quantities of gasoline and oil from Standard Oil Company of California. During the same period, Standard also sold gasoline and oil to Signal Oil and Gas Company, a large wholesaler whose subsidiaries operated at wholesale and retail levels in the same area as Perkins. The price Standard charged to Signal, however, was lower than the price it charged to Perkins. Signal passed on the advantages of this lower price to its subsidiary, Western Hyway, which in tum sold at a reduced price to one of its own subsidiaries, Regal Stations Company. The competitive effect of this price differential was that the retail stations operated by Regal were able to undercut Perkins’ retail price. Perkins’ consequent inability to compete resulted in a decline in sales and induced him to sell his business at a low price. He then sued Standard Oil for treble damages under section 2(a) of the Clayton Act, as amended by the Robinson-Patman Price Discrimination Act, alleging that the financial injuries he suffered while competing with Regal at the retail level were a result of Standard’s price discrimination at the wholesale level.