SAN FRANCISCO (KNWA/KFTA) — Walmart and Energizer are facing three proposed class-action lawsuits over what complaints say is a price-fixing ploy.
Three separate lawsuits were filed, including one from plaintiffs Kyle Kelley and Kimberly Schuman, one from 12 different plaintiffs and one from Portable Power, a retailer that sells Energizer batteries.
Energizer, the largest battery manufacturer in the United States, and Walmart, the largest battery retailer in the United States, are accused in all three suits of raising battery prices, forcing consumers to pay more and competitors to raise their prices.
Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that the price fixing is in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.
Portable Power’s complaint says that this was all part of an elaborate scheme.
“Faced with a dismal market outlook for disposable batteries, Energizer and Walmart, its largest customer, agreed to a scheme to slow price decline and ensure that both companies could charge higher-than-competitive prices for Battery Products,” the complaint said.
The complaint goes on to detail the alleged plan, saying “Energizer’s agreement with Walmart to inflate its wholesale prices for its Battery Products to direct purchasers other than Walmart and to prevent its wholesale customers from charging retail prices below Walmart’s formed the scheme.”
The complaint says that the scheme goes back to as early as 2018. One example shows battery prices going up nearly 27% in just a few months in 2019.
In May 2019, a month before an 8% price increase was announced by Energizer, Walmart priced a 24-pack of Energizer Max Alkaline AAA batteries at $12.78. By July 2019, just two months later, Walmart had raised the price to $16.24.
According to SEC filings mentioned in the complaint, Walmart sales accounted for 13.8% of Energizer’s annual sales in 2020.
Portable Power said in its complaint that it is looking for disgorgement, restitution and the creation of a constructive trust to “remedy Defendants’ unjust enrichment.”
The lawsuits were filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.