Atlanta - Savant Systems filed a
federal antitrust lawsuit against Creston, alleging that the large home- and
commercial-automation supplier is illegally stifling competition by "threatening
or financially disincentivizing dealers who offer or express an interest in
offering Savant products."
Savant began offering its first products, based on Apple's OS, in mid
2008, and in early 2009 began hearing of the illegal practices, co-founder and
CEO Robert Madonna told TWICE during the CEDIA Expo here. The practices since
then have continued and grown in frequency, he continued. "We felt we had no
choice, especially in the past two weeks," he added without elaborating.
"Dealers have a right to buy from any supplier
without the threat of their business being damaged," Madonna charged. "It's
more than just the legality. We need to stand by our dealers when they're
trying new technology."
Savant's mission "is to change the industry
with better technology," Madonna said, but Creston is trying to thwart that
Creston hasn't yet returned inquiries for
Savant's complaint, filed in the U.S. District
Court for the District of Massachusetts, charges Crestron with violating antitrust
laws, including the Sherman and Clayton Acts, violating the Lanham Act, and
violating state unfair competition laws.
In a prepared statement, Savant claimed Crestron
"has unlawfully sought to exclude Savant from the network of dealers who
purchase programmable controllers for residential and commercial automation, particularly
high-end home automation, from manufacturers like Crestron and Savant for
resale to installers and end users in the market. "
The alleged illegal conduct "has included
entering into exclusionary agreements with dealers which preclude them from
offering Savant's products, as well as threatening or financially
disincentivizing dealers who offer or express an interest in offering Savant
products." These activities, Savant alleges, are "calculated to restrain
competition from Savant by precluding its access to the dealer network and to
protect Crestron's monopoly position in the market."
The suit also alleges that Crestron "has
repeatedly published knowingly false statements about Savant and its products,
all with the intent to unfairly compete with Savant."
Although it's common business practice for
suppliers to incentivize a dealer to boost sales of their products, often by
meeting volume or display commitments, Madonna declined to elaborate on how
Crestron "stepped over the line of fair business." He did say, however, that at
its annual dealer conferences, "dealers were nervous about being photographed."