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Cutting Bates Declared Lawful.

On July 13 the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justices Bowen and Fry gave judgment in an appeal case, of which the following is a report :

The Mogul Steamship Company, Limited, v. M'Gregor, Gow, and Company, Limited. —ln thie case the plaintiffs, who are the owners of ships which were at one time engaged in the China trade, appealed from the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice at trial without a jury in Middlesex, in an action which they had brought claiming damagoß from tbe defendants named and other shipping companies for having prevented them (the plaintiffs) from obtaining cargoes for their steamers in the Yang-tse-kiang River in China, for London and other ports. The plaintiffs alleged that "the conspiracy " consisted of a combination and an agreement by and amongst all the defendants to coerce and bribe shippers to agree to forbear from shipping cargo by the steamers of the plaintiffs, which caused great loss and damage to the plaintiffs. In the Court below the Lord Chief Justice held that the combination among the defendants to secure the China trade to themselves was not illegal, that it was allowable competition, hence the present appeal. The case was argued bo far back as the month of March, The Master of the Rolls said he had the misfortune to differ from his brothers in the conclusion that he had come to. He was of the opinion that the combination of the defendants to deprive the plaintiff company of its share of the China trade between the Yang-tse-kiang River and London was illegal, that it went beyond the allowed limits of fair competition, and that consequently judgment ought to have been entered for the plaintiffs. Lord Justice Bowen and Lord Justice Fry, however, concurred in holding that there had been nothing in the nature of an illegal conspiracy in the acts of the defendants. They had entered into an agreement among themselves to allow to all shippers a rebate of 5 per cent, on the goods carried by their steamers, and this had the effect—as Lord Justice Fry explained—of causing the plaintiff company to relinquish the trade, or to oarry on business at a loss. Still the defendant* had not gone beyond the law in what they bad done. Even if competition in trade should drive a man out of his business altogether, or indeed out of the town in which he had carried it on, that (said Lord Justice Fry) was not an illegal act, provided no violence] or anything in the nature of violence—that no physical or moral intimidation—had been exercised. The whole tendency of modern legislation was to encourage combination within certain limits, and all competition was held to be for the good of the community in the end. In this case the competition had been very severe, bnt the defendants did not attempt to drive the plaintiffs away from any port but the one in which they themselves sought to increase their gains. Their combination was simply in order to promote their own gain, and there was nothing illegal in that, provided they did not circulate false rumors or resort to fraud in order to destroy the competition of the plaintiffs. Their Lordships (Lords Justices Bowen and Fry) held that the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice was right and ought to be upheld, and the appeal was dismissed, with costs.

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Bibliographic details

Cutting Bates Declared Lawful., Issue 8048, 26 October 1889, Supplement

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Cutting Bates Declared Lawful. Issue 8048, 26 October 1889, Supplement

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