"Big Three" Mfrs. Included In Anti-Trust Case

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The US District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana has agreed to allow a filing to expand the list of defendants in an ongoing anti-trust action to include “Big Three” manufacturers Pentair, Hayward and Zodiac.

 The case was originally brought against Covington, La.-based PoolCorp by a group of 11 dealers and consumers accusing the distribution giant of intimidating manufacturers in order to stop them from selling products through competing distribution channels.

 In November 2011, PoolCorp settled a similar suit filed by the FTC, in which the distributor admitted no guilt but agreed to certain remedies. In that case, PoolCorp was accused of threatening to shut manufacturers out of PoolCorp’s distribution if those manufacturers also sold products through PoolCorp’s rivals.

 Shortly afterwards, however, new suits were filed by dealers alleging they had been harmed, in part through higher product prices resulting from PoolCorp’s anti-competitive tactics.

The case took a new turn when the plaintiffs asked the court to attach Hayward, Zodiac and Pentair as defendants, in essence accusing them of collaborating with PoolCorp by going along with the scheme. As the Big Three dominate equipment manufacturing in the pool business, the effect of the alleged collusion was to shut out competition in pool distribution.

The plaintiffs are also hoping to expand the scope of the case into a broader, class-action suit that would qualify others in the industry to receive proceeds from an award should the case ultimately be decided for the plaintiffs.

At the same time, PoolCorp and the Big Three have asked the court to dismiss the case. Hearings on that motion are scheduled for October.

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