Energizer's Alleged Wholesale Price Inflation
Energizer is said to have agreed to inflate wholesale battery prices for other retailers "under pressure from Walmart" starting around January 2018. The company also required these retailers not to undercut Walmart on price.
Retailers' Risk of Higher Prices or Termination
Rivals of Walmart reportedly risked facing higher wholesale prices or being cut off by Energizer, the largest U.S. disposable battery maker, if they charged less at checkout than Walmart, the world's largest retailer.
Resulting in Higher Prices and Market Control
The alleged scheme led to higher prices from Energizer and Duracell, which control 85% of the disposable battery market. The complaints state that inflation or changes in demand could not explain these price increases.
Energizer's Project Atlas Aims to Regain Sales
Energizer attempted to recover sales lost in 2013 when Walmart ended its exclusive battery contract with Sam's Club. According to the complaints, the company created a team, Project Atlas, to ensure Walmart's prices would be the lowest.
Energizer and Walmart Remain Silent on Allegations
Neither Energizer nor Walmart immediately responded to requests for comment on the lawsuits. Duracell is not a defendant in the case.
Plaintiffs Seek Damages and Injunctions
The San Francisco, federal court lawsuits, seek unspecified compensatory and triple damages under federal and state antitrust laws and various state consumer protection laws. They also seek injunctions to prevent Energizer from tying battery sales to pricing and require Energizer and Walmart to "dissipate" the effects of their anticompetitive conduct.
Energizer's Market Share Growth Since 2018
The plaintiffs claim that Energizer's share of the U.S. disposable battery market has increased to more than 50%, up from 40% in 2018.
Walmart's Alleged Influence on Energizer's Pricing
The complaints quote an Energizer sales representative admitting on a phone call that the company had adjusted its pricing policies at Walmart's request. Portable Power Inc, a Walmart rival that had been charging lower prices, is leading the retailers' lawsuit.
Details of the Filed Cases
The cases filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, are Copeland et al. v Energizer Holdings Inc et al., No. 23-02087; Portable Power Inc v Energizer Holdings Inc et al., No. 23-02091; and Schuman et al. v Energizer Holdings Inc et al., No. 23-02093.