News Corp must face Dial, Heinz ad monopoly class action - judge

Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:03pm EDT
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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...

A woman holds different sizes of tomato ketchups at a store selling small-sized products for single-person households at a department store in this photo illustration taken in Seoul October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji