Re: One thing I could never understand
"How could anyone think that an agreement which basically said "You are not allowed to give this price or better to a competitor" could EVER be anything but a price fixing arrangement..."
Because scumbag companies have been leading up to that level (restrictive competitive pricing contracts) for a very long time; they have only been doing it serendipitously
Bose Corporation, for example, has been doing this type of regulated pricing structure since the 1980's (how do I know? I was a dealer once...). They only do so under a different guise: the 'unwritten rule'.
Back in the 80's and 90's, you could only advertise Bose products using Bose pre-authorized ad copy AND, if you insisted on actually printing a price in the ad, it could only be FULL RETAIL. Bose frowned against having a "sale" or even discounting their products off of full retail pricing. If you did wish to discount a Bose product you could never, ever mention the price in print - you could only say things like "Save!" or "Come in for pricing", which even the former raised their eyebrows in alarm.
So you say to yourself, "So? That did not mean that you couldn't sell the product at whatever pricing you truly wished to", and in that respect you do not understand the delicacy of the situation.
Bose would do (occasional) inspections of your shop to see how you displayed their products (in a dedicated display, not in direct comparison to any other product) and at what pricing. If they didn't like what they saw? Then, purely by 'accident'...your shipments dried up. You could order and order and order, but by some miraculous 'loss' of your requests you never actually GOT any product.
So every Bose dealer went along with the ploy. Therefore, de facto "price fixing" - it was almost impossible for a customer to buy Bose at a discount, you had to look far and wide and find a dealer doing so in a quiet manner (which, we did).
These de facto pricing standards were - AND STILL ARE - somewhat rampant in parts of the retail industry. Grado Labs, headphone manufacturers, are widely known for continuing to play this game in Europe: you discount our products? Don't expect a restocking shipment anytime soon.
A few companies in recent years have, like Apple, attempted to get this policy in writing and, as you see, the retailers just play along and sign on the dotted line. Why? They are used to the subversive version of it being played against them so having it in writing is not that significant a deal - it isn't anything truly new. The other companies got caught and now it is simply Apple's turn to pay the piper for anti-competitive practices and, like the others before them, Apple sees no problem with the policy because they've seen this game played for years. 'Why are you bothering us?!', they bemoan, when it's been around before?