Essential Facilities Doctrine: Access Regulation Disguised as Antitrust Enforcement
38 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 11, 2020
This chapter describes the emergence of the EFD and reviews its development against the background of major trends in the continuing evolution of federal antitrust law. It then analyzes recent Supreme Court cases that have questioned and thereby undermined EFD, even though lower courts claim to derive the doctrine from the Court’s earlier precedents. The main focus is on the emerging recognition by the Court that ongoing economic regulation of a monopoly business under the guise of antitrust is neither consistent with the fundamentals of the federal antitrust statutes, nor with basic institutional capacities of courts and antitrust enforcement agencies, as distinct from legislatures and the purpose-built agencies that engage in economic regulation pursuant to statute. The conclusion suggested by this analysis is that EFD is no more useful as a response to concerns about access to digital platforms than to the other situations that have led to the Court’s profound doubts regarding EFD. The asserted competitive problems targeted by EFD claims may change as technology and business practices evolve, but the fatal weaknesses of EFD persist. If and to the extent digital platforms can be objectively shown to demonstrate any need for mandatory access by customers, competitors or others, mandatory access remedies should be addressed—if justified by responsible and conscientious policy analysis—through rules and institutions distinct from those of antitrust.
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