Focus Areas:    Antitrust | Antitrust Populism | Consumer Welfare Standard | FTC | FTC Reform

ICLE Comments, Antitrust law and the consumer welfare standard

Executive Summary

Since the original Pitofsky hearings, much has fundamentally changed in the way the firms do businesses. Yet, despite these rapid and fundamental shifts in technology and behavior, we still face many of the same policy challenges as existed twenty years ago (and more). Innovation always yields both costs and benefits, meaning that some firms will face adverse effects as the environment in which they developed their business changes. Unfortunately, some antitrust observers use this reality as an opportunity to advocate for problematic changes in the underlying law.

These comments argue in favor or maintaining and strengthening the existing consumer welfare standard. It is a standard rooted in testable, empirical realities, and is designed to lead to reproducible outcomes that redound to the benefit of consumers. We argue that, to date, no better alternative has been proposed, and that enforcement agencies should tread lightly when considering alterations that would undermine the solid foundations of antitrust law. The unfortunate outcome of many calls to reform would be to return antitrust law to an era of politicized enforcement, lower consumer welfare, and greater uncertainty for firms operating in the economy.

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