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FTC sues dental supply companies over consumer protection law violations

[JURIST] The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that it has filed a complaint against the three biggest dental supply companies, "alleging that they violated U.S. antitrust laws by conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to or otherwise serve buying groups representing dental practitioners."

The dental supply companies, Benco, Henry Schein and Patterson, are full-service dental distributors, supplying a range of equipment from gloves and cement to dental chairs and lights. The complaint accuses the companies of participating in an agreement "to deprived independent dentists of the benefits of participating in buying groups that purchase dental supplies from national, full-service distributors." Essentially, the distributors agreed to refuse to compete and offer discounts to buying groups, thus greatly disadvantaging solo and small groups of dentists.

The FTC charges the companies of violating Section 5 of the FTC Act [text], which prohibits unfair methods of competition. Benco is also charged with "invitation to collude" under Section 5 because the company is believed to have invited a fourth distributor to join the agreement. As of now, the administrative trial is set for October.

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