When does business competition cross the line?

Competition is a driving force in the American business environment, spurring innovation and improving goods and services. There are limits, however, to how far a business person can go in trying to gain an edge on the competition. Here are three ways that competitive business practices can cross the line into unlawful territory.

A deluge of unfavorable (and false) reviews

More and more people turn to online reviews when vetting a product or service. In fact, a recent analysis of consumer behavior reveals that 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product. Only 13% will even consider buying a product that has only garnered an overall rating of one or two stars.

This phenomenon can help protect the public from nefarious or ill-equipped businesses, but it also opens the door to unfair competitive practices. If a business competitor is submarining your online reputation with false reviews, it is a cause for concern and, potentially, legal action.

Misappropriating trade secrets

Your intellectual property, including trademarks, patents and copyrights, are in many ways the lifeblood of your business. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can give your competitors the advantage of your hard work and innovation, without requiring any work on their part.

By securing your intellectual property, you can send the message that you have every intention to protect your trade secrets and other sensitive information. If someone does try to infringe upon your property, having these legal protections in writing will place you in a stronger legal position in any potential litigation.

Price fixing

State and federal laws make it clear that supply and demand should determine prices, not agreements between companies. If two or more businesses do enter into such an agreement, it can not only hurt consumers but drive honest competitors out of business.

California business owners must keep an eye out for unfair business practices on the part of competitors. If you think a competing business has crossed the line, you have rights and options worth considering.