November 24, 2017
The MacIver Institute recently completed its annual investigation into potentially illegal Black Friday prices in Wisconsin. We reached the conclusion that once again, a crime wave of illegally low prices will sweep the state this holiday shopping season thanks to Wisconsin’s antiquated minimum markup law.
Across the state, retailers like Toys”R”Us, Walmart, Target, and countless others are offering deals so good, they must be illegal under the minimum markup law.
Formally known as the Unfair Sales Act, the minimum markup law was enacted in the Great Depression – a time when Amazon was just a river in Brazil. The law requires that alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel are marked up 3 percent at the wholesale level and 6 percent at the retail level for alcohol and tobacco, and 9.18 percent at the retail level for motor fuel. It also forbids retailers from selling most other products below cost.
Many of the discounts retailers are offering on Black Friday likely run afoul of the Unfair Sales Act, but the law is only selectively enforced. It’s ridiculous to have such a law on the books.