fair-trade laws, in the United States, a former group of statutes that permitted manufacturers to specify the minimum retail price of a commodity. The first fair-trade law was adopted (1931) by California. Intended to protect independent retailers from the price-cutting competition of large chain stores, such statutes were originally nullified by the courts, which found most fair-trade rules in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. As a result, Congress passed (1937) the Miller-Tydings Act in order to exempt fair trade from antitrust legislation. In the late 1950s, however, many manufacturers began to abandon the practice of setting minimum retail prices, largely because of the difficulties involved in enforcing such agreements. With the post–World War II rise of bargain outlets for a wide range of consumer products, fair-trade laws became increasingly unpopular and were repealed in many jurisdictions. In 1975, federal legislation eliminated the remaining fair-trade laws.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.