Essential Facilities Doctrine: Access Regulation Disguised as Antitrust Enforcement

38 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2020

See all articles by Abbott B. Lipsky

Abbott B. Lipsky

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

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.

Suggested Citation

Lipsky, Abbott B., Essential Facilities Doctrine: Access Regulation Disguised as Antitrust Enforcement (November 11, 2020). The Global Antitrust Institute Report on the Digital Economy 22, Available at SSRN: or

Abbott B. Lipsky (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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