Antitrust for high-tech and low: regulation, innovation, and risk
Severe limitations on antitrust enforcement officials’ knowledge and the potential impact of ill-advised investigations and prosecutions on markets suggest that officials should exercise extraordinary caution in enforcement of restraints on single-firm conduct. Although it is common to depict antitrust enforcement as protecting market competition while other forms of regulation are seen as intrusions (justifiable or not) into market operation, antitrust enforcement has characteristics and risks similar to other forms of regulation. Government antitrust enforcement can be especially problematic, as it requires discretionary selection among an extraordinary range of possible targets, imposes significant burdens on companies that are under investigation or subject to suit, invites efforts by individual firms to motivate officials to deploy resources against rivals, and can seriously disrupt competition among firms. Antitrust authorities need to exercise special care in making enforcement decisions respecting conduct of individual dominant firms in high-technology industries, where antitrust enforcers’ abilities to understand and predict industry evolution are most limited and where enforcement actions are most likely to rest on debatable predicates about the effects of specific conduct. This article examines government enforcement decisions respecting four prior targets and draws lessons for enforcement going forward.
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