Daniel William Aston, a former e-commerce executive, pleaded guilty on Jan. 17, 2019 for conspiring to fix the prices of posters sold online. Aston, a resident and citizen of the United Kingdom, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California on Aug. 27, 2015. Aston was a fugitive until his arrest in Spain in May 2018. After his arrest, he spent over five months in Spanish custody before agreeing to submit to U.S. jurisdiction and answer to price-fixing charges.
Aston is the former Director and part owner of Trod Limited (doing business as Buy 4 Less, Buy For Less, and Buy-For-Less-Online), a U.K. company headquartered in Birmingham, England, which was also charged in the indictment. Trod Ltd. pleaded guilty to the price-fixing charges on Aug. 11, 2016. Aston admitted to fixing the price of certain posters sold in the United States on Amazon Marketplace from as early as September 2013 to approximately January 2014. Following his guilty plea, Aston was sentenced to serve a custodial sentence of six months, with credit for the time he served in Spanish custody. Aston will serve the remainder of his custodial sentence under supervised release.
“Today’s announcement represents another successful development in the Division’s first online marketplace prosecution involving algorithmic pricing tools and a warning to fugitives who attempt to evade prosecution,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Americans shopping online, like all consumers, deserve the benefit of a market free from collusion. The Division and its law enforcement partners are committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals, wherever located, who collude through new and sophisticated means, including algorithmic pricing software.”
According to the charge, Aston and his co-conspirators discussed the prices of certain posters sold in the United States through Amazon Marketplace and agreed to fix, increase, maintain, and stabilize the prices of those posters. In order to implement their agreements, the defendant and his co-conspirators agreed to adopt specific pricing algorithms for the sale of certain posters with the goal of coordinating changes to their respective prices.
This prosecution arose from a federal antitrust investigation into price fixing in the online wall décor industry being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office with the assistance of the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. Anyone with information on price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the wall décor industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.