Mars Petcare, Nestle Purina, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, PetSmart and veterinary services providers face a class action lawsuit that alleges that those pet food companies engaged in price fixing of prescription dog and cat food formulations in the US, in violation of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.
“We are aware of the recent lawsuit in Northern California against Mars Petcare US, Banfield, Blue Pearl, PetSmart, Hills Pet Nutrition and Nestle Purina Petcare,” Courtney Suthoff, representing Mars Petcare’s Royal Canin for public relation agency FeishmanHillard, told Petfood Industry. “While we do not otherwise comment on pending litigation, we believe the allegations to be without merit and will defend ourselves accordingly.”
The pet food lawsuit was filed in the US District Court of Northern California (Case number 3:16-cv-7001). The plaintiffs claim that the pet food businesses charged consumers more than was justified for certain foods by making those foods available by prescription only. The plaintiffs allege that these prescription foods contain no drug or ingredients that are not found in conventional foods.
The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been FDA evaluated, and legally requires a prescription. The plaintiffs allege that the prescription pet foods do not meet these criteria.
Alleged conspiracy by prescription pet food makers
The pet food company defendants are accused of engaging in a conspiracy to market, label and sell prescription pet foods to consumers at above-market prices, that wouldn’t be supported in the market if not for the prescription requirement. Federal anti-trust laws and California consumer-protection law makes such behavior illegal, if it did occur.
In the case filing, plaintiffs stated that they and others had overpaid for the prescription formulations and made purchases that they wouldn’t have if not for the prescription requirement.
Specifically, the plaintiffs point to Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet and Iams Veterinary Formula. The plaintiffs also noted that Mars and PetSmart own co-defendant Banfield Pet Hospital, and that Mars own co-defendant Blue Pearl Vet Hospital.