Suddenly, everyone claims to be the consumer's best friend. An Arkansas judge on Oct. 11 decided that Wal-Mart Stores had illegally priced some pharmaceutical products below cost with the intent of injuring competitors. The judge awarded three pharmacies $289,407, or triple the actual damages he said they had suffered. The attorney for the plaintiffs hailed the decision as assurance of "effective competition" against Wal-Mart and other powerful retailers. Wal-Mart, which will appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, could face similar suits in 22 other states.

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