Energizer was "under pressure from Walmart" to ensure that nobody sold batteries for a lower price, three lawsuits say.
The lawsuits allege that Energizer inflated wholesale battery prices for Walmart competitors.
A key tenant of Walmart's business strategy is "everyday low price."
Walmart and battery manufacturer Energizer have been conspiring to force other retailers to sell Energizer's popular disposable batteries at higher prices than they otherwise would, three new lawsuits are alleging.
In separate court filings, a battery seller and two sets of consumers allege that Walmart and Energizer violated antitrust and consumer-protection laws as far back as January 2018. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for their cases, which they filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in late April.
The lawsuits allege that in exchange for Walmart giving Energizer "preferential treatment" at its stores, Energizer agreed to a scheme to "artificially inflate the wholesale prices it charged to Walmart's competitors for Energizer Battery Products to prevent them from undercutting Walmart's retail prices." They further allege that, as a result, prices for batteries from Energizer's chief rival, Duracell, also were artificially inflated. Duracell is not a defendant in the cases.
Additionally, the lawsuits say that "under pressure from Walmart," Energizer monitored Walmart's competitors to ensure that they didn't charge lower prices for their product — and to "discipline" those who did.
The plaintiffs say that to follow through on the agreement, Energizer created a group called Project Atlas. The group "policed Energizer's customers' retail prices and raised wholesale prices as necessary to force Energizer's customers to maintain retail prices that did not undercut Walmart's," per the lawsuits.
In response to the lawsuits, a Walmart spokesperson told Insider over email: "We take allegations like this seriously and will respond in Court as appropriate."
Energizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lead plaintiff in the retail lawsuit is Portable Power Inc., Reuters reports. According to its case filing, Portable Power is a San Francisco company that has sold batteries on Amazon under the name HB Wholesale.
A key part of Walmart's business strategy, whether it's selling food or other products, is "everyday low price." That is, Walmart tries to charge customers less for its products.
Read the original article on Business Insider