Letter: Unfair competition?

As many restaurant owners across the country claim, mobile vendors play dirty. Do mobile vendors hold an unfair advantage over restaurants? If the actual answer was yes, perhaps it’s time for the National Restaurant Association to file an unfair competition lawsuit on behalf of their members.

In the United States, unfair competition is typically applicable when one business (mobile vendor in this case) gains an unnatural advantage over another entity.

So what are these unfair competition practices that mobile vendors in Rifle are using to affect commerce? These are different types of unfair competition practices, let’s see if any of them apply:

• Intellectual property infringement (this includes infringing on copyright, trademark and patent laws).

• Antitrust (if a mobile hot dog vendor got too big and was detrimental to a healthy economy).

• Misappropriation of trade secrets (a competitor or former employee steals trade secrets, then profits from them).

• Trade libel (inventing falsehoods about the competition to gain a market advantage).

• Tortious interference (messing around with another businesses’ contracts).

Now if mobile vendors in Rifle were actually involved in any of these practices, even we would declare that specific vendor was unfair competition. But you really never hear restaurants making these claims. Instead they state that the unfair competition stems from food trucks having lower overhead.

Unfortunately the argument holds no water. Yes, restaurants have higher overhead, but that’s by their choice for the honor of having climate controls, tables, chairs and bathrooms.

Then if lower overhead and location is the problem, let’s look at Redbox compared to Blockbuster video stores. I have yet to see a city ban the placement of Redbox kiosks to protect video stores that pay property taxes. How about Amazon compared to Borders books? I’ve yet to find a single state or local government seeking to ban the sale of online books or merchandise. We know why that isn’t happening: Those types of laws or ordinances would undermine the free market. It would stifle competition and public choice.

So what’s different when it comes to mobile vendors? Nothing.

Kevin Kelley

Lucky Dog, Rifle

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