For example, Rav Ezra Basri (Shaarei Ezra 2:131) rules that the laws of hasagat gevul apply to the sale of chametz before Pesach, because kinat sofrim tarbeh chochmah only applies to teaching Torah per se. Even when competition is technically permissible between Torah scholars, Rav Basri (based on the Chatam Sofer's conclusion) adds that rabbis must be extra strict about only competing fairly, to set a proper example for everyone else.
IV. Business Districts
Many contemporary authorities believe that a competing store occasionally enhances the business of the first storeowner. Under certain circumstances, the new store helps transform the area into a center for a certain type of businesses. Residents of Manhattan are familiar with garment districts, flower districts, furniture districts, and other similar commercial zones. Such areas attract large amounts of consumers, who spend more money than if they were patronizing a single store. Rav Moshe D. Tendler (in a lecture at Yeshiva University) and Rav Basri (personal communication) permit competition in such circumstances, as the original storeowners benefit from the newcomers.
V. Contemporary Neighborhoods
It should be noted that changing patterns in the geography of business impact halachic discussions of competition. Many businesses today do not cater exclusively to their local neighborhoods. For example, the Tel Aviv Beit Din has written that competition between insurance agents should not be restricted according to the distinction between local residents and outsiders, as the insurance industry is not a neighborhood-based field (Piskei Din Rabaniyim 6:3). Following this reasoning, geographic location would not limit stores that conduct much of their business through the World Wide Web. Thus, each business must be individually evaluated, based on contemporary business conditions, to determine if the rules of hasagat gevul apply to it.
This area is particularly complex, as it depends on both many unresolved halachic disputes and changing business conditions. It is thus important to present all cases to dayanim who are Torah scholars and who understand the intricacies of business (see Aruch Hashulchan, C.M. 15:6). It should not surprise people to find that different batei din rule differently in these matters, considering the many unresolved disputes involved.
© 2000, Rabbi Howard Jachter