Report No. 29
English Law Relating to Spreading False Rumours to Affect Prices, Etc.
At common law, every practice or device by act, conspiracy, words or news to enhance the price of victuals or other merchandise was held to be unlawful. These practices came under "forestalling" (practices to enhance prices) including ingrossing (buying up standing corn, etc.) for regrating i.e. selling at monopoly prices and similar offences. Spreading false rumours was also one example of such practices. The bare ingrossing of a whole commodity in order to sell it at an unreasonable price was also an offence1. By a statute of 18442, the several offences of badgering (buying up corn, etc., and carrying them elsewhere for re-sale), ingrossing, forestalling and regrating were abolished. But section 4 of that Act preserved the common law offence of spreading false rumours to enhance or abate the prices of vendible commodities. The section is quoted below:-
"Nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to apply to the offence of knowingly and fraudulently spreading or conspiring to spread, any false rumour, with intent to enhance or decry the price of any goods or merchandise, or to the offence of preventing, or endeavouring to prevent, by force or threats, any goods, wares, or merchandise being brought to any fair or market, but that every such offence may be inquired of, tried, and punished as if this Act had not been made."
1. Russell on Crime, (1958), Vol. 2, p. 1688.
2. Forestalling, regrating, etc., Act, or Conspiracy Act, 1944 (7&8 vic. c. 24) (now repealed).