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May 17, 2021
Cadwalader’s Antitrust Litigation group in Washington, D.C. secured an important victory for Anheuser-Busch in California state court on May 4 when the Superior Court in Fresno denied a motion for class certification filed on behalf of hundreds of California retailers in a case alleging price discrimination.
In 2014, five convenience store owners sued Anheuser-Busch and the Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Fresno alleging that certain “favored retailers” received disproportionately more coupons for beer than the plaintiffs and proposed class members. Plaintiffs claimed this constituted price discrimination that significantly threatened or harmed competition and argued that the proposed class members were forced to lower their retail prices to meet the competition from the lower prices of favored retailers, or lose customers. The complaint asserted claims under California’s Unfair Competition law and for violation of the California Unfair Practices Act. After extensive fact and expert discovery, plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification seeking to represent a class of convenience store owners who had purchased Anheuser-Busch beer in Fresno and Madera counties.
The trial court found that plaintiffs “failed to meet their burden of showing that there are common issues of law or fact with regard to their claims to the extent that they rely on harm to competition based on the alleged price fixing or other antitrust violations,” and so “the court will not certify a class with regard to any claim of price fixing or damage to competition.” The Court also held that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that their claims were typical of the class, that they would be adequate class representatives, or that the benefits of certifying the class would outweigh the disadvantages and burdens of certification.