Felder’s Collision Parts sells aftermarket parts for GM cars; it sued GM and several dealers in original equipment manufactured parts made by GM, alleging that they ran a pricing and rebate program (with the unfortunate name of “Bump the Competition”) that amounted to predatory pricing. The district court dismissed and the Fifth Circuit affirmed in Felder’s Collision Parts, Inc. v. All Star Advertising Agency, No. 14-30410 (Jan. 27, 2015).
Under the program, a dealer would offer a price significantly lower than the ordinary aftermarket part price. Felder’s argued the dealer was pricing beneath average variable cost — and thus engaging in predatory pricing — and offered an example of a dealer selling a part for $119 that it bought from GM for $135. The defendants pointed out that a key part of the program was a rebate to the dealer from GM based on sales, and including that rebate in the “cost” calculation turned the seeming $15 loss in this example into a 14% profit.
The Fifth Circuit agreed: “The price versus cost comparison focuses on whether the money flowing in for a particular transaction exceeds the money flowing out. The rebate undoubtedly affects that bottom line for All Star by guaranteeing that it makes a profit on any Bump the Competition sale. That undisputed fact resolves the case, as a ‘firm that is selling at a shortrun profit maximizing (or loss-minimizing) price is clearly not a predator.'” The Court acknowledged: “Felder’s no doubt is having a tougher time selling aftermarket equivalent parts for GM vehicles . . . But antitrust law welcomes those lower prices for consumers of collision parts so long as neither GM nor its dealers is selling parts at below-cost levels.” (Or, “parts is parts . . . “)