In 2014 International Construction Products (ICP) filed an antitrust suit against equipment manufacturers Volvo, Cat, and Komatsu. ICP claimed the three major corporations made a concerted attempt to exclude the sales company from the U.S. online market because they represent competitor manufacturers from China. U.S. District Judge Richard Andrews threw the case out the grounds ICP’s claims cannot be substantiated.
The North Carolina sales company argued the three companies conspired against them and their client when Cat merged with IronPlanet, an online retailer who planned to sell the products ICP markets. It is possible Cat, along with Komatsu and Volvo, were threatened by this arrangement since the Chinese-made commodities would have gone up for online sale undercutting the US manufacturers’ prices. ICP would have offered heavy equipment and parts for about 40% than competing products for the U.S. brands.
Once Cat merged with IronPlanet and prevented foreign producers from using it as a sales platform, ICP’s clients lost their primary means of selling to customers in the West. The merger, ICP said in their suit, was facilitated by a planned boycott of IronPlanet by Cat, Komatsu, and Volvo. While motive may have been present, Judge Andrews found there was insufficient evidence of the cooperative effort alleged by ICP.
The court found no evidence Cat owns 40% of the heavy equipment market in the U.S. as ICP claimed. There was also insufficient proof the three corporations worked together to squeeze out Chinese manufacturers with Cat’s IronPlanet merger. Still, ICP states their business and similar marketers for foreign producers are blocked from using IronPLanet by design. This could leave the three major companies the only main suppliers in the U.S. for the foreseeable future, driving up prices for buyers who would otherwise have access to less expensive products made in other countries.