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Ruling in Putative Class Action Against E-File Companies

By FindLaw Staff on March 03, 2010 2:38 PM

In Byers v. Intuit, Inc., No. 09-1997, the Third Circuit faced a challenge to the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' suit against Free File Alliance (FFA) and its members claiming violations of the Independent Offices Appropriations Act (IOAA) for charging fees in exchange for providing e-filing services, as well as a claim under section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

As stated in the decision: "From the plain language of the statute, it is evident that the IOAA applies only to entities that are considered to be an "agency" under the statute.  In Title 31 of the US Code, the term "agency" is defined as  "a department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government." 

As FFA members, who are wholly private entities, clearly do not fit within the definition of "agency,"  the court held that the district court correctly decided that the IOAA does not apply.  Furthermore, the court rejected the plaintiffs' claim that IOAA's reach extends to FAA members because it provided services on behalf of the IRS pursuant to an agreement, as none of the exceptions under Thomas were applicable.

Finally, the court upheld the district court's dismissal of the Sherman Act claim in concluding that the defendants were entitled to conduct-based implied antitrust immunity with respect to the anti-competitive action taken pursuant to the Ceiling Provisions of the 2005 Agreement with the IRS.

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