(CN) – A federal judge in Philadelphia certified a class action on Wednesday accusing a Toys “R” Us division of conspiring with baby-product makers to keep prices high in an effort to compete with online retailers.
Faced with stiff competition from Web sales, Babies “R” Us allegedly strong-armed manufacturers into fixing prices on baby items, including strollers, high chairs and car seats. Online retailers typically have lower overhead costs and can deeply discount the merchandise and still make a profit.
Consumers claimed the collusion between Babies “R” Us and manufacturers violated federal antitrust law and forced consumers to pay artificially inflated prices.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody ruled that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirements of class certification, and that a class action was the best way to litigate the claims.
She said the consumers offered “testimony and other evidence that, absent the conspiracies to restrain trade, [Babies “R” Us] would have lowered prices to compete with lower average pricing.”
Defendants include McClaren Ltd. of the United Kingdom, Italy’s Perego SpA, Medela Inc. of Switzerland, Baby Bjorn AB of Sweden and the Britax Childcare unit of Carlyle Group.
Judge Brody dismissed claims against Kids Line, a leading maker of baby bedding, because none of the plaintiffs had actually purchased their bedding from Babies “R” Us.