WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday abandoned a 96-year-old ban on manufacturers and retailers setting price floors for products.
In a 5-4 decision, the court said that agreements on minimum prices are legal if they promote competition.
The ruling means that accusations of minimum pricing pacts will be evaluated case by case.
The Supreme Court declared in 1911 that minimum pricing agreements violate federal antitrust law.
Supporters said that allowing minimum price floors would hurt upstart discounters and Internet resellers seeking to offer new, cheaper and less expensive ways to distribute products.
The principle that past decisions should be left alone "does not compel our continued adherence" in this instance, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
Respected authorities in the economics literature suggest that the long-standing decision "is inappropriate, and there is now widespread agreement" that price floors can help promote competition, Kennedy added.