Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Tim Wu, Columbia asks After Consumer Welfare, Now What? The ‘Protection of Competition’ Standard in Practice.
ABSTRACT: The consumer welfare standard in antitrust has been heavily criticized. But would, in fact, abandoning the “consumer welfare” standard make the antitrust law too unworkable and indeterminate?
I argue that there is such a thing as a post-consumer welfare antitrust that is practicable and arguably as predictable as the consumer welfare standard. In practice, the consumer welfare standard has not set a high bar. The leading alternative standard, the “protection of competition” is at least as predictable, and arguably more determinate than the exceeding abstract abstract consumer welfare test, while being much truer the legislative intent underlying the antitrust laws. More concretely, we should return to asking, in most antitrust cases, the following question: Given a suspect conduct (or merger): Is this merely part of the competitive process, or is it meant to “suppress or even destroy competition?” This standard actually already forms a part of antitrust doctrine. What changes is eliminating “consumer welfare” as a final or necessary consideration in every case.