AquaStar Pool Products of San Diego has filed a lawsuit accusing Hayward Industries of engaging in anticompetitive practices.
“The main charge is that they were going to punish anybody
who dealt with AquaStar,” said Maxwell M. Blecher of Los
Angeles-based Blecher & Collins, PC. “Since Hayward is
basically a must-have product for pool distributors, the threat has
had the effect of making the distributors unwilling to deal with
“We believe that, given their market share, those activities
are unlawful under the antitrust laws.”
Hayward denies the allegations, but declined to comment on ongoing
litigation. Its motion to dismiss the case was recently denied and
the proceedings move into discovery.
The suit revolves around alleged activity subsequent to
AquaStar’s entry into the suction-side pool cleaner market in
2009, when it introduced the StarzTruck line of cleaners and
ProStar line of replacement parts made for Hayward’s
Navigator, Pool Vac and Arneson brand cleaners.
The complaint, filed in the District Court for the Central District
of California, stated that Hayward threatened to withhold selling
to distributors who offered AquaStar pool cleaners and related
products. It also alleges that discounts, rebates and other
incentives were reserved for those who agreed not to purchase or
distribute the AquaStar products.
“The way they accomplished this is to say either ‘we
won’t deal with you’ or ‘we’re going to
withdraw your rebates or allowances so you’re going to have
to be punished, and you’ll wind up paying more if you deal
with AquaStar than if you just stay with us,’” Blecher
In its court-filed response, Hayward stated, “On one
occasion, [Hayward] exchanged certain Hayward products for certain
AquaStar products from one of Hayward’s distributors.”
Other than that, it denied the charges.
AquaStar accused Hayward of communicating anticompetitive threats
and incentives in emails, letters, one-on-one conversations and in
public addresses. Hayward denied that any such communications took
AquaStar also claimed that certain distributors had placed orders
for products, but cancelled at the last minute because of threats
from Hayward. Hayward denied leveling such threats and said it
lacks the information to know whether or not distributors have
cancelled orders or returned products to AquaStar.
Additionally, because of Hayward’s dominant position in the
market, the complaint stated that the alleged threats hold serious
consequences to distribution and retail customers, making it
impossible for other manufacturers to exist in the market and
limiting consumers’ choices.
“Absent action by this court to enjoin and preclude defendant
Hayward from continuing its anticompetitive and exclusionary
conduct, there is a dangerous probability that Hayward will succeed
in obtaining a monopoly in the relevant market (or continue to
monopolize), including the power to set prices, reduce
output or exclude competition in the market for automatic
suction-side pool cleaners/replacement parts,” AquaStar said
in its complaint.
Hayward denied engaging in anticompetitive behavior and said that
it did not cause injury to AquaStar.
In addition to damages and compensation for legal fees, AquaStar is
asking the court for a permanent injunction preventing Hayward from
participating in the alleged actions.
This isn’t the first time these parties have gone to court
over their pool cleaner products. Last year, the producers reached
a confidential settlement after Hayward sued AquaStar, accusing the
company of cyber-squatting, trademark and design patent
infringement, unfair competition, and a number of other related
In that complaint, Hayward said AquaStar’s replacement parts
infringed on a Hayward design patent, and that the company
intentionally marketed and packaged the parts so they would appear
to be Hayward products.