David Camp pleads guilty to price-fixing on Amazon.
David Camp, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based Amazon seller, has been charged with conspiring to fix the prices of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs he sold through Amazon Marketplace from as early as May 2018 to Oct. 29, 2019. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter, and Camp is the first to be charged. He operated a virtual storefront and had a physical business address located in Sweetwater, Tennessee, according to documents.
“American consumers deserve the benefits of competitive pricing, whether they’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores or in an online marketplace,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “By their actions, the defendant and his co-conspirators denied purchasers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs free and open competition, and instead lined their own pockets. The division remains dedicated to safeguarding online sales from collusion, especially as online shopping becomes increasingly ubiquitous.”
Camp, as an online seller, and his co-conspirators, according to investigators, “agreed to raise and maintain the prices of DVDs and Blu-rays sold in their Amazon Marketplace stores.” These products were sold for prices far above fair market value. Camp’s business practices, therefore, were detrimental to Amazon and other sellers within the online marketplace. He operated in direct violation of the terms set forth for sellers and caused consumers to expect to pay unreasonably high and unfair prices.
“Honest, competitive pricing of goods allows consumers to purchase products at fair market value, which provides an overall benefit to the individual customer and the market as a whole,” said Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Partnering with competitors to fix prices of goods at higher-than-necessary rates removes this protection for consumers – it’s also illegal, whether it happens on an online platform or in a face-to-face transaction. Today’s guilty plea should remind other like-minded individuals that they will eventually have to answer for this type of behavior.”
“Activities related to collusion, bid rigging and market allocation do not promote an environment conducive to open competition, which harms the consumer,” said Acting Executive Special Agent in Charge Steven Stuller of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General. “Along with the Department of Justice and our federal law enforcement partners, the USPS Office of Inspector General will aggressively investigate those who would engage in this type of harmful conduct.”
Congress originally passed the antitrust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a “comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.” In 1914, Congress passed two additional antitrust laws: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act. These actions were put into place in order to maintain fair marketing practices. Sherman Act violations can carry significant consequences that are both civil and criminal, which Camp will now face. Penalties include fines up to $1 million for an individual, along with ten years in prison.