In 1886 Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate interstate commerce, but had not granted the ICC much power to enforce the statutes and punish violators.

In 1903, the Elkins Anti-Rebate Act forbade the railroad carriers from giving large and powerful clients rebates on their shipments; rebates which differed from the published freight tariffs.

The Elkins Act had a double effect: it allowed the railroads to set their rates according to market conditions, and it enlarged the regulatory powers of the ICC.