Antitrust Law and Competition for Distribution


The most incoherent and unsettled area of antitrust law is the regulation of the competitive process for product distribution and promotion.  Competition for distribution involves vertical contracting with respect to product placement, promotional activity, or the decision to carry a particular product.  This process includes controversial practices recently subject to intense scrutiny such as slotting allowances, loyalty discounts, bundled rebates, category management and exclusive dealing.  Antitrust law has designed rules for each of these practices independently, ignoring the economic relationships between these business practices.  This paper examines those relationships by focusing on the economics of competition for distribution.  Viewing these practices as part of the competitive process for distribution exposes an antitrust policy that systematically mishandles the regulation of these contracts and suggests safe harbors for a subset of distribution contracts.