Tying Arrangements

22 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2012 Last revised: 11 Apr 2017

See all articles by Erik Hovenkamp

Erik Hovenkamp

University of Southern California School of Law

Herbert Hovenkamp

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; University College London

Date Written: April 10, 2017


This paper provides an overview of the law and the antitrust economics of tying. After describing the many varieties of tying arrangements we examine specific legal tying doctrines and gauge their effectiveness in identifying anticompetitive ties. We generally assume that the appropriate antitrust goal is consumer welfare; however, all situations in which consumer welfare is increased by a tie also result in an increase in general welfare. We look at the use of ties as quality control devices and as ways of obtaining both production and distribution efficiencies.

Market power in either the tying or tied product is a necessary but not sufficient condition for competitive harm. Further the co-called “leverage” theory of tying has been appropriately denigrated, except for a few exceptional circumstances. However, the term “foreclosure” still serves to describe some anticompetitive ties. The Ninth Circuit recently dismissed a tying claim for failure to allege foreclosure, thus implicitly rejecting leverage claims. We also expand upon the rationale that ties can be used as price discrimination devices and analyze the effects of such ties on consumer welfare.

When both the tying and tied markets are noncompetitive ties are commonly used to prevent double marginalization. Such ties produce lower prices, higher output, and increased consumer welfare. If the tying and tied products are perfect complements or nearly so, then welfare increases are highly likely. If the two products are imperfect complements then consumer welfare losses may occur because some buyers are forced to take an unwanted product or do without. In this latter set of cases a bundled discount tends to produce greater welfare because those who wish only one product can continue to purchase it, although at a higher price. Thus bundled discounts serve to discriminate between classes of customers where gains from the elimination of double marginalization are possible and those in which they are not. Whether a firm increases or reduces the price of the primary product upon bundling depends on the elasticity of demand for separate sales, and a price increase does not establish that the bundle is anticompetitive.

Finally, we examine optimal damages for tying, looking in particular at the historical test which based damages on tied product overcharges; and the current dominant test which bases damages on the net overcharge of the sum of the tying and tied product prices. We find shortcomings in both methodologies.

Keywords: tying, ties, antitrust, consumer welfare, price discrimination, double marginalization

Suggested Citation

Hovenkamp, Erik and Hovenkamp, Herbert, Tying Arrangements (April 10, 2017). The Oxford Handbook of International Antitrust Economics (Roger D. Blair & Daniel Sokol, eds. vol.2, Ch 14), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1999063 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1999063

Erik Hovenkamp

University of Southern California School of Law ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Herbert Hovenkamp (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
319-512-9579 (Phone)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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