News Corp must face Dial, Heinz ad monopoly class action - judge
By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - News Corp (NWSA.O: Quote) has been ordered by a Manhattan federal judge to face a class action lawsuit accusing it of monopolizing the market for in-store promotions at some 52,500 retail stores across the United States.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley said consumer packaged goods companies such as Dial Corp, H.J. Heinz Co [HJHC.UL] and Smithfield Foods Inc [SFII.UL] may pursue their antitrust claims as a group, potentially boosting overall damages.
News Corp spokeswoman Laura Adams said the company, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is reviewing Thursday's decision.
The litigation is part of a long-running battle over News Corp's marketing operations.
In January 2010, the New York-based company agreed to pay $500 million to end rival Valassis Communications Inc's [VCII.UL] antitrust lawsuit over the newspaper coupon market.
News Corp has an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. market for in-store promotion services, where it acts as a middleman to help companies promote goods through coupon dispensers, electronic signs, end-of-aisle displays and shopping cart ads.
The plaintiffs said News Corp has monopolized this market since 2004 by locking up exclusive long-term contracts with retailers.
They said this anticompetitive conduct has forced them to pay artificially high prices to promote such goods as Dial-brand soap, Heinz ketchup and Smithfield's Eckrich hot dogs. Continued...