Food-deliver apps. When and what are they liable for. The US case of Grubhub

Food-deliver apps.  When and what are they liable for.  The US case of Grubhub


In recent years, food delivery apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates have become an integral part of our lives. They offer convenience at our fingertips, but at what cost? A significant lawsuit has been filed against these major players in the food delivery market, bringing to light allegations of price-fixing and monopolistic practices. Monte Silver, an attorney specializing in litigation and international litigation, examines this complex case and its ramifications for both consumers and restaurants.


The Genesis of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit, Davitashvili v. Grubhub Inc., filed in 2020, claims that these food delivery giants have been exploiting restaurants by enforcing “no-price competition clauses.” These clauses effectively handcuff restaurants from offering their food at more competitive prices elsewhere, including direct sales from the restaurant.


According to Frank LLP, the law firm handling the suit, these companies are charging hefty fees from restaurants that range from 13.5 percent to a whopping 40 percent of revenues. To put this in perspective, the average restaurant’s profit margins typically hover around 3 to 9 percent. As a result, consumers and restaurants both suffer from these exorbitant fees, making meals more expensive across the board.


The Role of COVID-19 in the Lawsuit

It’s also worth noting that the timing of this lawsuit coincides with the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry. When most dining establishments were forced to close their doors, the reliance on food delivery apps grew exponentially. While these platforms provided a lifeline for many struggling restaurants, the associated high fees became a source of contention, further fueling the allegations outlined in the lawsuit. This as a pivotal aspect of the case that could contribute to swaying public opinion and potentially influencing the court’s decision.


The Court’s Stand

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan did not dismiss the case, stating that the lawsuit “alleges plausibly” that restaurants are essentially cornered into doing business with these delivery giants. His ruling asserts that restaurants have had no option but to inflate prices in both direct and platform markets due to the restrictive nature of these contracts.


Judicial Implications: A Deeper Dive

While Judge Kaplan’s ruling to allow the case to proceed is not an outright victory for the plaintiffs, it nevertheless has significant implications in the broader context of antitrust and competition law. By recognizing the potential anticompetitive effects of the “no-price competition clauses,” the court has paved the way for a closer scrutiny of contractual obligations imposed by dominant market players. The impact of this ruling could ripple across various industries beyond food delivery, calling into question similar agreements that may also violate antitrust principles.


The Plaintiff’s Perspective

The individuals who initiated the lawsuit are customers who have ordered food through these apps. They argue that the “no-price competition clause” not only drives up costs but also limits restaurants’ ability to attract customers by offering better prices for direct orders or dine-in services.


The Damages Sought and Class Action Dynamics

The lawsuit seeks damages dating back to April 2016 for customers who purchased food directly from restaurants affiliated with these delivery services. Class action lawsuits of this nature often serve as powerful tools for aggregating small claims into a single, more formidable legal action. This makes it economically feasible to litigate against well-funded defendants like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates. It should also be emphasized that the class action dynamic adds another layer of complexity to the lawsuit and will undoubtedly influence how both parties strategize moving forward.


The Scope of the Market

Statistics indicate that Grubhub, Uber, and Postmates, along with DoorDash (which was initially part of the lawsuit but later dropped), command nearly 98 percent of the online restaurant delivery market in the U.S. This virtual monopoly allows these companies to dictate terms that are overwhelmingly favorable to them, while stifling competition and hurting both consumers and restaurants.


Cannibalizing the Dine-In Market

The plaintiffs argue that these food delivery apps have cannibalized the dine-in market, essentially ruining the traditional restaurant experience for American families. Judge Kaplan sided with the plaintiffs, indicating that the combination of high commission rates and slim profit margins for restaurants leads to customers paying inflated prices.


What This Means for the Future

While the ruling does not ensure a win for the plaintiffs, it does set a precedent that could have far-reaching implications. If the allegations are proven true, it could open the floodgates for a slew of antitrust and price-fixing cases against these companies, thereby bringing about potential industry-wide changes.


Implications for International Markets

Although the lawsuit is U.S.-centered, it may have ramifications in international markets where these food delivery apps operate. Countries with similar competition laws may take note of this case as a precedent. Monte Silver, well-versed in international litigation, suggests that should the plaintiffs succeed, it might trigger a chain of similar lawsuits globally. Regulatory bodies across borders could become more vigilant about the operations of such platforms, thereby potentially shifting the global paradigm surrounding the food delivery market.


A Brief Analysis to Sum it Up

This case exemplifies the struggle between technology and traditional business models. It calls into question whether convenience should come at the expense of fair competition and consumer choice. Many believe that this lawsuit could serve as a critical landmark case, potentially catalyzing legislative changes that might better balance the scale between technological convenience and fair market practices.


Final Thoughts

The lawsuit against Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the need for comprehensive legal frameworks that protect both consumers and small businesses from potential monopolistic practices. As this case continues to unfold, Monte Silver will be keenly watching the proceedings, ready to offer further legal insights into what promises to be a watershed moment in antitrust and price-fixing litigation.

If you’re a foreign national grappling with the intricacies of U.S. courts, you don’t have to navigate the complex legal landscape alone. Attorney Monte Silver specializes in representing foreign nationals in a range of U.S. legal matters, including international litigation. With a deep understanding of both U.S. and international law, Monte Silver is the advocate you want in your corner. Contact us today to discuss how we can best serve your needs and fight passionately for your rights.



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