[thelist] Business practices and Anti-Trust

the head lemur headlemur at qwest.net
Sun Mar 18 15:11:47 CST 2001

How to price web work has been one of the biggest items of interest since
the first animated gif showed up in a browser. We have all asked that
question and want to know.

The bad news is that you can't discuss it in forums like this. Under the
current laws in the US this is Anti-Trust, which is illegal and carries
severe penalties.

Despite the fact that this is an opt-in list and for the most part private,
the public nature of this list and the fact that it is archived, creates a
tangible record for the purpose of prosecution under anti-trust statutes.

The reason is this email is it is not just being read by  the original
poster, but is broadcast to the other members of the list, so it no longer
is a private communication.

I know that this sounds silly, after all we joined this list to learn more
about our craft, and one of the most important components is being
compensated so we can continue to create our work. Unfortunately, the issue
of compensation, in terms of how much do I charge, how much do you charge,
how much should I charge, etc., is price fixing even if you do not use such

The exception is statistical analysis such as provided on some sites, whose
links escape me but represent an overview of rates on an aggregate basis
with individual serial numbers filed off.

The standard Anti-Trust litany, which is the first order of business in
every business organization meeting goes like this:

"No participant shall be allowed to discuss any subject relating to prices
charged, discounts offered of any nature, specific hourly rates, employee
benefits, or agreements made with third party entities."

I am not a lawyer, but I will take a stab at explaining these rules as I
understand them.

subject relating to prices charged:

This one is a stretch, but can cover the enumeration on how we structure our
work agreements, x up front, x at stage 1,2,3, etc.

discounts offered of any nature:

Again we probably offer different terms and conditions to different clients
based on the work, our capacity, and nature of the site being built. This
one is pretty easy as one size does not fit all, or in most cases from one
project to the next.

This is what happened to the music industry

specific hourly rates:
This is the Big one:
Even if you do not change your rates as a result of a discussion on a list,
the mere fact that the discussion is taking place is can be an indicator of
price fixing or in lawspeak 'Horizonal price constraints'. Price fixing is
one of the best and easiest cases that the government can prove.

employee benefits:
this impacts the ability of an employer to hire and retain employees
regardless of individual compensation.

agreements made with third party entities:
areas that are covered here are agreements with third parties in respect to
discounts for continued work such as site updates in the case of web design.
Here again most of these in our business will be negotiated on a case by
case basis.

There are so many variables in our business, from coding practices, to post
launch activities, and economic conditions in our geographic areas of work
to make any hard and fast figures meaningless.

The only way around this is to unionize, which may for some have a certain
allure in terms of a compensation structure that is the same across the
board, with the usual disclaimers about the economic structure in your town,
but because of the nature of our work, competency cannot be tested with
enough certainty to enable a client to call the union hall and be assured of
getting a group of journeymen that are on the same level, in terms of
experience and understanding.

(how many ways are there to get a javascript pop-up window?)

But so many of us are in web work precisely because we want to be our own
bosses, captains of industry, run with scissors, or don't play well with

So ends the spring anti-trust rant!

the head lemur
Web Standards

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