Virginia Antitrust Act§ 59.1-9.1. Short title.
This chapter may be known and cited as the "Virginia Antitrust Act."
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.2. Purpose of chapter.
The purpose of this chapter is to promote the free market system in the economy of this Commonwealth by prohibiting restraints of trade and monopolistic practices that act or tend to act to decrease competition. This chapter shall be construed in accordance with the legislative purpose to implement fully the Commonwealth's police power to regulate commerce.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.3. Definitions.
When used in this chapter:
(a) The term "person" includes, unless the context otherwise requires, any natural person, any trust or association of persons, formal or otherwise, or any corporation, partnership, company, or other legal or commercial entity.
(b) The terms "trade or commerce," "trade," and "commerce," include all economic activity involving or relating to any commodity, service or business activity.
(c) The term "commodity" includes any kind of real or personal property.
(d) The term "service" includes any activity that is performed in whole or in part for the purpose of financial gain, including but not limited to personal service, rental, leasing or licensing for use.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.4. Certain activities not prohibited.
(a) No provision of this chapter shall be construed to make illegal:
(1) The activities of any labor or professional organization or of individual members thereof that are directed solely to labor or professional objectives legitimate under the laws of this Commonwealth or the United States.
(2) The activities of any agricultural or horticultural cooperative organization, or of individual members thereof, to the extent necessary to achieve the aims of the enacted laws of either this Commonwealth or the United States.
(3) The bona fide religious and charitable activities of any nonprofit corporation, trust or organization established exclusively for religious or charitable purposes.
(4) The activities of any nonprofit hospital, or of any officer, director or employee thereof, that are directed to a reduction in services or an improvement in the quality of services to the extent that any such reduction or improvement will reduce, stabilize or limit cost increases.
(b) Nothing contained in this chapter shall make unlawful conduct that is authorized, regulated or approved (1) by a statute of this Commonwealth, or (2) by an administrative or constitutionally established agency of this Commonwealth or of the United States having jurisdiction of the subject matter and having authority to consider the anticompetitive effect, if any, of such conduct. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to alter or terminate any other applicable limitation, exemption or exclusion.
1974, c. 545; 1979, c. 640.§ 59.1-9.5. Contracts, etc., in restraint of trade unlawful.
Every contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce of this Commonwealth is unlawful.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.6. Monopolies unlawful.
Every conspiracy, combination, or attempt to monopolize, or monopolization of, trade or commerce of this Commonwealth is unlawful.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.7. Discriminatory practices unlawful; proof; payment or acceptance of certain commissions, etc., unlawful.
(a) It is unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, either directly or indirectly, to discriminate in price between different purchasers of commodities or services of like grade and quality, where either or any of the purchasers involved in such commerce are in competition, where such commodities or services are sold for use, consumption or resale within the Commonwealth and where the effect of such discrimination may be substantially to lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce, or to injure, destroy or prevent competition with any person who either grants or knowingly receives the benefit of such discrimination, or with customers of either of them; provided, that nothing herein contained shall prevent differentials which make only due allowance for differences in the cost of manufacture, sale or delivery resulting from the different methods or quantities in which such commodities or services are to such purchasers sold or delivered; and provided further, that nothing herein contained shall prevent persons engaged in selling commodities or services in commerce from selecting their own customers in bona fide transactions and not in restraint of trade; and provided further, that nothing herein contained shall prevent price changes from time to time where in response to changing conditions affecting the market for or the marketability of the goods concerned, such as, but not limited to, actual or imminent deterioration of perishable goods, obsolescence of seasonal goods, distress sales under court process, or sales in good faith in discontinuance of business in the goods concerned.
(b) Upon proof being made, at any suit on a complaint under this section, that there has been discrimination in price or services or facilities furnished or in payment for services or facilities to be rendered, the burden of rebutting the prima facie case thus made by showing justification shall be upon the person charged with a violation of this section; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall prevent a seller rebutting the prima facie case thus made by showing that his lower price or the furnishing of services or facilities to any purchaser or purchasers was made in good faith to meet an equally low price of a competitor, or the services or facilities furnished by a competitor.
(c) It is unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, to pay or grant, or to receive or accept, anything of value as a commission, brokerage, or other compensation, or any allowance or discount in lieu thereof, except for and not exceeding the actual cost of such services rendered in connection with the sale or purchase of goods, wares or merchandise.
(d) It is unlawful for any person engaged in commerce to pay or contract for the payment of anything of value to or for the benefit of a customer of such person in the course of such commerce as compensation or in consideration for any services or facilities furnished by or through such customer in connection with the processing, handling, sale or offering for sale of any products, commodities or services manufactured, sold or offered for sale by such person, unless such payment or consideration is available on proportionally equal terms to all other customers competing in the distribution of such products, commodities or services.
(e) It is unlawful for any person to discriminate in favor of one purchaser against another purchaser or purchasers of a commodity bought for resale with or without processing, by contracting to furnish or furnishing, or by contributing to the furnishing of, any services or facilities connected with the processing, handling, sale or offering for sale of such commodity so purchased upon terms not accorded to all purchasers on proportionally equal terms.
(f) It is unlawful for any person engaged in commerce, in the course of such commerce, knowingly to induce or receive a discrimination in price that is prohibited by this section.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.8. Forum; restraining orders and injunctions; penalties.
Actions and proceedings for violations of this chapter shall be brought in the circuit courts of this Commonwealth. Those courts may issue temporary restraining orders and injunctions to prevent and restrain violations of this chapter, and may award the damages and impose the civil penalties provided herein. They may also grant mandatory injunctions reasonably necessary to eliminate violations of this chapter.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.9. Venue.
The venue for all actions and proceedings for violations of this chapter shall be as specified below in this section.
The circuit court of the county or city wherein any defendant: (i) resides; or (ii) regularly or systematically conducts affairs or business activity; or (iii) has property that may be affected by the action or proceeding. Provided, however, that if said defendant does not, as specified in (i), (ii) and (iii) above, reside in, conduct affairs or business activity in, or have such property in the Commonwealth, then the action or proceeding may be brought in the circuit court of the county or city in which the registered office of said defendant is located or wherein the alleged violation occurred.
1974, c. 545; 1975, c. 289.§ 59.1-9.10. Investigation by Attorney General of suspected violations; civil investigative demand to witnesses; access to business records, etc.
A. Whenever it shall appear to the Attorney General, either upon complaint or otherwise, that any person has engaged in, or is engaging in, or is about to engage in any act or practice prohibited by this chapter, the Attorney General may in his discretion either require or permit such person to file with him a statement in writing or otherwise, under oath, as to all facts and circumstances concerning the subject matter. The Attorney General may also require such other data and information as he may deem relevant to the subject matter of an investigation of a possible violation of this chapter and may make such special and independent investigations as he may deem necessary in connection with such matter.
B. In connection with any such investigation, the Attorney General, or his designee, is empowered to issue a civil investigative demand to witnesses by which he may (i) compel the attendance of such witnesses; (ii) examine such witnesses under oath before himself or a court of record; (iii) subject to subsection C, require the production of any books or papers that he deems relevant or material to the inquiry; and (iv) issue written interrogatories to be answered by the witness served or, if the witness served is a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or governmental agency, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the witness. The above investigative powers shall not abate or terminate by reason of any action or proceeding brought by the Attorney General under this chapter. When documentary material is demanded by a civil investigative demand, said demand shall not: (1) contain any requirement that would be unreasonable or improper if contained in a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of this Commonwealth; or (2) require the disclosure of any documentary material that would be privileged, or production of which for any other reason would not be required by a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of the Commonwealth.
C. Where the information requested pursuant to a civil investigative demand may be derived or ascertained from the business records of the party upon whom the interrogatory has been served or from an examination, audit or inspection of such business records, or from a compilation, abstract or summary based therein, and the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer is substantially the same for the Attorney General as for the party from whom such information is requested, it is sufficient for that party to specify the records from which the answer may be derived or ascertained and to afford the Attorney General, or other individuals properly designated by the Attorney General, reasonable opportunity to examine, audit or inspect such records and to make copies, compilations, abstracts or summaries. Further, the Attorney General is hereby authorized, and may so elect, to require the production pursuant to this section, of documentary material before or after the taking of any testimony of the person summoned pursuant to a civil investigative demand, in which event, said documentary matter shall be made available for inspection and copying during normal business hours at the principal place of business of the person served, or at such other time and place, as may be agreed upon by the person served and the Attorney General.
D. Any civil investigative demand issued by the Attorney General shall contain the following information:
1. The statute and section hereof, the alleged violation of which is under investigation and the subject matter of the investigation.
2. The date and place at which time the person is required to appear to produce documentary material in his possession, custody or control in the office of the Attorney General located in Richmond, Virginia. Such date shall not be less than twenty days from the date of the civil investigative demand.
3. Where documentary material is required to be produced, the same shall be described by class so as to clearly indicate the material demanded.
E. Service of civil investigative demand of the Attorney General as provided herein may be made by:
1. Delivery of a duly executed copy thereof to the person served, or if a person is not a natural person, to the principal place of business of the person to be served, or
2. Mailing by certified mail, return receipt requested, a duly executed copy thereof addressed to the person to be served at his principal place of business in the Commonwealth, or if said person has no place of business in the Commonwealth, to his principal office.
F. Within twenty days after the service of any such demand upon any person or enterprise, or at any time before the return date specified in the demand, whichever period is shorter, such party may file, in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond and serve upon the Attorney General a petition for an order of such court modifying or setting aside such demand. The time allowed for compliance with the demand in whole or in part as deemed proper and ordered by the court shall not run during the pendency of such petition in the court. Such petition shall specify each ground upon which the petitioner relies in seeking such relief, and may be based upon any failure of such demand to comply with the provisions of this chapter or upon any constitutional or other legal right or privilege of such party. The provisions of this subsection shall be the exclusive means for a witness summoned pursuant to a civil investigative demand under this section to challenge a civil investigative demand issued pursuant to subsection B.
G. The examination of all witnesses under this section shall be conducted by the Attorney General, or his designee, before an officer authorized to administer oaths in this Commonwealth. The testimony shall be taken stenographically or by a sound recording device and shall be transcribed.
H. Any person required to testify or to submit documentary evidence shall be entitled, on payment of lawfully prescribed cost, to procure a copy of any document produced by such person and of his own testimony as stenographically reported or, in the case of depositions, as reduced to writing by or under the direction of a person taking the deposition. Any party compelled to testify or to produce documentary evidence may be accompanied and advised by counsel, but counsel may not, as a matter of right, otherwise participate in the investigation.
I. All persons served with a civil investigative demand by the Attorney General under this chapter, other than any person or persons whose conduct or practices are being investigated or any officer, director or person in the employ of such person under investigation, shall be paid the same fees and mileage as paid witnesses in the courts of this Commonwealth. No person shall be excused from attending such inquiry pursuant to the mandate of a civil investigative demand, or from producing a paper or from being examined or required to answer questions on the ground of failure to tender or pay a witness fee or mileage unless demand therefor is made at the time testimony is about to be taken and as a condition precedent to offering such production or testimony and unless payment thereof is not thereupon made.
J. Any natural person who shall neglect or refuse to attend and testify, or to answer any lawful inquiry or to produce documentary evidence, if in his power to do so, in obedience of a civil investigative demand or lawful request of the Attorney General or those properly authorized by the Attorney General, pursuant to this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof by a court of competent jurisdiction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Any natural person who commits perjury or false swearing or contempt in answering, or failing to answer, or in producing evidence or failing to do so in accordance with a civil investigative demand or lawful request by the Attorney General, pursuant to this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction therefor by a court of competent jurisdiction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment.
K. In any investigation brought by the Attorney General pursuant to this chapter, no individual shall be excused from attending, testifying or producing documentary material, objects or intangible things in obedience to a civil investigative demand or under order of the court on the ground that the testimony or evidence required of him may tend to incriminate him or subject him to any penalty, but no testimony or other information compelled either by the Attorney General or under order of the court, or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information, may be used against the individual or witness in any criminal case. However, he may nevertheless be prosecuted or subjected to penalty or forfeiture for any perjury, false swearing or contempt committed in answering, or failing to answer, or in producing evidence or failing to do so in accordance with the order of the Attorney General or the court. If an individual refuses to testify or produce evidence after being granted immunity from prosecution and after being ordered to testify or produce evidence as aforesaid, he may be adjudged in civil contempt by a court of competent jurisdiction and committed to the county jail until such time as he purges himself of contempt by testifying, producing evidence or presenting a written statement as ordered. The foregoing shall not prevent the Attorney General from instituting other appropriate contempt proceedings against any person who violates any of the above provisions.
L. It shall be the duty of all public officials, both state and local, their deputies, assistants, clerks, subordinates or employees, and all other persons to render and furnish to the Attorney General, his deputy or other designated representative, when so requested, all information and assistance in their possession or within their power. Any officer participating in such inquiry and any person examined as a witness upon such inquiry who shall disclose to any such person other than the Attorney General the name of any witness examined or any other information obtained upon such inquiry, except as so directed by the Attorney General, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the sanctions prescribed in subsection J. Such inquiry may upon written authorization of the Attorney General be made public.
M. The Attorney General may promulgate rules and regulations to implement and carry out the provisions of this section.
N. It shall be the duty of the Attorney General, or his designees, to maintain the secrecy of all evidence, testimony, documents or other results of such investigations. Violation of this subsection shall be a misdemeanor. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent (i) the disclosure of any such investigative evidence by the Attorney General in his discretion to any federal or state law-enforcement authority that has restrictions governing confidentiality similar to those contained in this subsection or (ii) the presentation and disclosure of any such investigative evidence by the Attorney General, in his discretion, in any action or proceeding brought by the Attorney General under this chapter.
1974, c. 545; 1982, c. 285; 2000, c. 755.§ 59.1-9.11. Penalty for flagrant violations.
In any action or proceeding brought under § 59.1-9.15 (a) the court may assess for the benefit of the Commonwealth a civil penalty of not more than $100,000 for each willful or flagrant violation of this chapter. No civil penalty shall be imposed in connection with any violation for which any fine or penalty is imposed pursuant to federal law.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.12. Personal suit for injunction or actual damages.
(a) Any person threatened with injury or damage to his business or property by reason of a violation of this chapter may institute an action or proceeding for injunctive relief when and under the same conditions and principles as injunctive relief is granted in other cases.
(b) Any person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of this chapter may recover the actual damages sustained, and, as determined by the court, the costs of suit and reasonable attorney's fees. If the trier of facts finds that the violation is willful or flagrant, it may increase damages to an amount not in excess of three times the actual damages sustained.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.13. Effect of conviction in other proceedings.
A final judgment or decree to the effect that a defendant has violated this chapter, other than a consent judgment or decree entered before any testimony has been taken, in an action or proceeding brought under § 59.1-9.15 (a) is prima facie evidence against that defendant in any other action or proceeding against him brought under § 59.1-9.12 or § 59.1-9.15 (b) as to all matters with respect to which the judgment or decree would be an estoppel between the parties thereto.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.14. Limitation of actions.
(a) An action under § 59.1-9.15 (a) to recover a civil penalty is barred if it is not commenced within four years after the cause of action accrues.
(b) An action under § 59.1-9.12 (b) or § 59.1-9.15 (b) to recover damages is barred if it is not commenced within four years after the cause of action accrues, or within one year after the conclusion of any action or proceeding under § 59.1-9.15 (a) commenced within or before that time based in whole or in part on any matter complained of in the action for damages, whichever is later.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.15. Actions on behalf of Commonwealth or localities; injunctive relief; damages.
(a) The Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth, or the attorney for the Commonwealth or county attorney on behalf of a county, or the city attorney on behalf of a city, or the town attorney on behalf of a town may institute actions and proceedings for injunctive relief and civil penalties for violations of this chapter. In any such action or proceeding in which the plaintiff substantially prevails, the court may award the cost of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee, to such plaintiff.
(b) The Commonwealth, a political subdivision thereof, or any public agency injured in its business or property by reason of a violation of this chapter, may recover the actual damages sustained, reasonable attorney's fees and the costs of suit. If the trier of facts finds that the violation is willful or flagrant, it may increase damages to an amount not in excess of three times the actual damages sustained.
(c) The Attorney General in acting under subsection (a) or (b) of this section may also bring such action on behalf of any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, provided that the Attorney General shall notify each such subdivision of the pendency of the action and give such subdivision the option of exclusion from the action.
(d) The Attorney General may bring a civil action to recover damages and secure other relief as provided by this chapter as parens patriae respecting injury to the general economy of the Commonwealth.
1974, c. 545; 1982, c. 60; 1988, c. 589.§ 59.1-9.16. Remedies cumulative.
The remedies in this chapter are cumulative.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.17. Construction of chapter.
This chapter shall be applied and construed to effectuate its general purposes in harmony with judicial interpretation of comparable federal statutory provisions.
1974, c. 545.§ 59.1-9.18. Repealed.
Repealed by Acts 2015, c. 709, cl. 2.