Primary-Line Injury

  • Primary-line injury refers to the injury suffered by direct competitors of the firm practicing price discrimination
  • We can illustrate it with an example:
    • Eaton, Inc. is an established seller of bicycles in the Eugene bicycle market
    • Houston Asterisks, LLC offers only the established customers of Eaton a lower price for bicycles, thus taking them away from Eaton
    • The primary-line injury is suffered by Eaton

Utah Pie Co. v. Continental Baking Co. (1967)

  • In the 1950’s, frozen fruit pies were becoming increasingly popular
    • As a result of lower costs relative to its California competitors, Utah Pie had a commanding market share in Salt Lake City
    • The California companies lowered their prices below Utah Pie’s and gained market share in SLC
    • Utah Pie filed suit claiming primary-line injury, alleging that the California companies sold their products at different prices in different markets
  • Market shares of the various competitors in SLC market
1958 1959 1960 1961
Utah Pie 67 34 46 45
Pet 16 36 28 29
Carnation 10 9 12 9
Continental 1 3 2 8
All others 6 19 13 8
  • Prices in SLC market
Early 1958 1961
Utah Pie $4.15 $2.75
Pet $4.92 $3.46
Carnation $4.92 $3.30
Continental $5.00 $2.85
  • The Supreme Court decided (controversially) that the California firms were guilty of illegal price discrimination
    • The Court saw the falling price pattern and feared lessening competition from fewer competitors in the market
    • No firms had to exit the market, so this resembles competitive behavior rather than predatory pricing
    • At the end of the case, Utah Pie still had a dominating market share
    • The case seemed to oppose the idea of “protecting competition, not the competitors”