Guide to Antitrust Laws (Monopoly)



FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

Maintaining or Creating a Monopoly

While it is not illegal to have a monopoly position in a market, the antitrust laws make it unlawful to maintain or attempt to create a monopoly through tactics that either unreasonably exclude firms from the market or significantly impair their ability to compete. A single firm may commit a violation through its unilateral actions, or a violation may result if a group of firms work together to monopolize a market.

A common complaint is that some companies try to monopolize a market through "predatory" or below-cost pricing. This can drive out smaller firms that cannot compete at those prices. But the lower prices a large retailer offers may simply reflect efficiencies from spreading overhead costs over a larger volume of sales. Because the antitrust laws encourage competition that leads to low prices, courts and antitrust authorities challenge predatory activities only when they will lead to higher prices.

While the FTC has not found predatory pricing violations in recent years, it examines potential violations very carefully and maintains a close watch for other kinds of tactics -- like raising competitors’ costs -- that may disadvantage rivals.

Special situations
The solicitation of price fixing -- also called an "invitation to collude" -- indicates an inclination to engage in illegal behavior, but usually is not unlawful under the Sherman Act. Section 5 of the FTC Act provides more flexibility to challenge this kind of undesirable behavior.

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