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TRADE COMMISSION
[Authorized: NDCC 51-10-12]

The Unfair Trade Practices Act was passed by the Legislature in 1941. It defined unfair trade practices and “prohibited the advertising or offering for sale or selling merchandise below actual cost for the purpose or having the effect of injuring competitors or destroying competition”.  The act provided for penalties if violations occurred and the remedy for the enforcement (S. L. 1941, Ch. 291).    

It was in 1965 that the North Dakota Trade Commission was established and funded by the Legislature. Actual operations ran through fiscal years 1965-1967 (S. L. 1965, Ch. 330). The Commission established procedures, heard complaints of unfair retail practices, and in 1966 published a manual as required by the Legislature. The publication was entitled “Rules of Practice and Procedure before the Trade Commission”. It outlined the procedures for submitting a complaint to the Commission based on a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Law.  

The purpose and intent of the Commission was to attempt to foster better relations within the retail community, to provide a code of ethics for all retailers, and to settle disputes before legal proceedings were necessary.  The Commission registered and licensed every retailer doing business in the state and when necessary the Commission held hearings, issued findings of fact, and applied for injunctions to keep retailers from violating the Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

Commission members were distributors with three years experience in the field of retail who were nominated by the North Dakota Retail Association and appointed by the Governor. They served five year staggered terms and were representative of retailers across the state. Officers were elected annually from the membership and included a president and a vice president.  The treasurer or secretary position could be held concurrently by any other Commission officer and they did not necessarily need to be members of the Commission. 

The Commission continued to serve until June 30, 1967 and thereafter on a limited basis. After the mid 1970s the Governor no longer appointed Commission members. In 1991 the Legislature repealed the law that outlined the functions of the Trade Commission and gave the authority to the Attorney General (S. L. 1991, Ch. 525).

CHRONOLOGY

1941       Legislature passed the Unfair Trade Practices Act and provided a definition to the act.  It established what was considered an unfair sale (S. L. 1941, Ch. 291).

1965       After it amended the Century Code the Legislature set up the North Dakota Trade Commission and it authorized the Commission to enforce the provisions of the Unfair Trade Practices Law [NDCC 51-10]. The Legislature appropriated monies by establishing a Trade Commission Trust Fund. Commissioners were appointed by the Governor. The Commission hired an administrator (S. L. 1965, Ch. 330, Ch. 331).

1965       Attorney General Helgi Johanneson’s opinion outlined the means for funding the Commission (Opinion 1965-425).

1966       A statewide licensing program and a publication especially for retailers was completed. 

1967       Legislation was introduced in both Houses (S.B. 283; H.B. 564) to discontinue the Commission and to repeal the legislation of the previous Legislative Assembly. Legislation (S.B. 55) did not provide the needed appropriations.                 Commissioners continued working despite a lack of funding and did so at their own expense. In an opinion written by Attorney General Johanneson, he stated that the Commission could continue to operate however “no monies may be collected or spent” (Opinion 1967-251).

 1991      Legislature repealed the Commission, authorizing the Attorney General to investigate any unfair trade practices (S. L. 1991, Ch. 525).

2010       Century Code stated that the intent to injure competitors and to destroy competition be considered a Class A misdemeanor [NDCC 51-10-05]. Additionally the Century Code authorized the Attorney General to investigate whenever it served the public interest [NDCC 51-10-05.1].

SERIES
31998    Records
 
SOURCES
North Dakota Attorney General Website.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
North Dakota Trade Commission, “Rules of Practice and Procedure before the Trade Commission”, 1966.
Paul, Jack D. [Letter to Governor William L. Guy, 1966]. Series 31998. Located in the North Dakota State Archives.

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