The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws


D.C. Antitrust Act of 1980

D.C. Code Ann. §§ 28-4501 through 28-4518, 29-101.133

The Law:

The D.C. Antitrust Act was enacted in 1981 with the purpose of "promot[ing] the unhampered freedom of commerce and industry throughout the District of Columbia by prohibiting restraints of trade and monopolistic practices." D.C. Code Ann. § 28-4501. The Act closely follows sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-2.

In interpreting the Act, section 28-4515 instructs that it is the intent of the D.C. Council that courts "may use as a guide interpretations given by federal courts to comparable antitrust statutes." There are three circumstances in which interpretation of the D.C. Antitrust Act are likely to differ from federal law. These are (1) employment restriction and other business restraint cases; (2) plaintiff's efforts to recover damages by remote or "indirect" purchasers; and (3) proof of class action damages.

The D.C. Antitrust Act has special exemptions for labor and agricultural organizations. See D.C. Code Ann. § 28-4504. Additionally, the activity of a non-profit, trust or organization established for religious, charitable, literary, or educational purposes and acting consistent with those purposes cannot be found illegal under the Act. Id.

The Act may be enforced by both the D.C. Office of the Attorney General and private parties. The Office of the Attorney General has the power to issue civil investigative demands, § 28-4505, and can seek damages as well as injunctive relief for injuries suffered by D.C. Government or D.C. Residents (via a parens patriae action). Criminal penalties may also be pursued for a violation of §28-402 (Contract, combination, or conspiracy to restrain trade) or §28-403 (Monopolization). See § 28-4506. Private parties may seek treble damages, attorneys fees and injunctive relief. § 28-4508. Section 28-4510 provides certain circumstances where evidence of a successful suit brought by the District of Columbia may be used as prima facie evidence against the same party in a subsequent private suit.

Generally, suits must be commenced within four years of the offense. See § 28-4511.

Employee Non-Compete Agreements: The District of Columbia had adopted the Restatement (Second) of Contracts' analysis regarding the enforceability of non-compete agreements signed by employees. See Restatement (Second) of Contracts §§ 186-188; Ellis v. Hurston Associates, 565 A.2d 615, 618 (D.C. 1989). This adoption is supported by the legislative history of the District of Columbia Antitrust Act, which states, "that the Act is '[i]n the tradition of English common law and federal antitrust statutes, ... designed to foster innovation and independence in the local business sector by outlawing unreasonable restraints of trade and monopolistic acts.'" Id. (quoting Committee on the Judiciary, Report on the District of Columbia Antitrust Act, Bill 3-107, at 1 (1980)).

Resource: District of Columbia Practice Manual § 4 (15th ed. 2006).




updated statutory cite 11/07/06 JLS
Revised CPJ 5-14-07
Revised NTC 11-6-07
links updated 6/6/08 rab
Page checked July 14th, 2010, FJL.