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 change.
Creston hasn't yet returned inquiries for comment.
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."