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    New Hampshire Law Targets Predatory Pricing

    Effective July 25, bill looks to encourage fair competition among retailers.

    CONCORD, N.H. -- Lawmakers in New Hampshire have beefed up the state's Consumer Protection Law in an effort to maintain a competitive environment and stop big-box retailers from attempting to gain control of the retail fuel market through predatory pricing. The changes will be effective July 25.

    The new version of the law, backed by members of the Independent Oil Marketers Association of New England (IOMA), authorizes the state attorney general's office of private business to object to predatory pricing of products ranging from gasoline to prescription drugs.

    Gov. Jeanne Shaheen signed the legislation May 22.

    Concerns that big-box retailers were using predatory pricing tactics and skewing the retail playing field led to a coalition of consumer groups to push for the legislation. State Representative Marshall Quandt (R-Exeter), the bill's sponsor, said the legislation was designed to curb potential monopolies by large retailers. "New Hampshire's economy relies on the success of our small business," he said in a statement. "To allow large corporations to bully small operators out of the market is contrary to this state's ideology and contrary to the goals of consumer protection. If small businesses fail, competition erodes and, in the end, consumers pay more."

    While the bill was opposed by larger retail chains, such as Wal-Mart, IOMA president Joe Tomaino said New Hampshire's legislators understood that the dangers of predatory pricing cut across all sectors of the retail industry. "First and foremost, this is a consumer protection issue," he said.

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