El Derecho de la Competencia no protege a los consumidores, ni al bienestar general de la sociedad. Su función es mucho más específica: proteger el proceso competitivo.
, the Supreme Court has demonstrated a consistent focus on the competitive process rather than the welfare of consumers. This is demonstration is especially clear in Indiana Federation of Dentists and Discon. The Court holds in the former case that consumer harm is not necessary to establish a violation, and the Court holds in the latter case that clear indication of consumer harm is not sufficient. In both cases, the Court’s sole concern is the impact of the challenged restraint on the competitive process. As one appellate has court explained: “The antitrust laws are concerned with the competitive process, and their application does not depend in each particular case upon the ultimate demonstrable consumer effect. A healthy and unimpaired competitive process is presumed to be in the consumer interest.”
economics is the primary source of wisdom as to what we think we know about the impact of trade restraints on the competitive process
What antitrust knows best is that cartel activity is “manifestly anticompetitive” and lacks “any redeeming virtue.” It is “the supreme evil of antitrust,” so the rule of reason deems unlawful per se all naked agreements among competitors to fix prices, rig bids, restrict output, allocate customers, or divide markets. The Supreme Court declared price fixing unlawful per se precisely because it corrupts the competitive process:
“The effectiveness of price-fixing agreements is dependent on many factors, such as competitive tactics, position in the industry, the formula underlying price policies. Whatever economic justification particular price-fixing agreements may be thought to have, the law does not permit an inquiry into their reasonableness. They are all banned because of their actual or potential threat to the central nervous system of the economy”.
To carry its initial burden, a plaintiff challenging a non-suspect restraint must demonstrate, inter alia, the potential for a significant anticompetitive effect. For this, the courts generally require a threshold showing of market power. As one court explained, “[i]n analyzing agreements that are not per se violations of the antitrust laws, the court is looking to whether the action complained of ‘has the potential for genuine adverse effects on competition,’ and this analysis usually involves an inquiry ‘into market definition and market power.’”119 The conventional approach is to “(1) define the relevant market, (2) show that the defendant owns a dominant share of that market, and (3) show that there are significant barriers to entry . . . .”
The rule of reason demands an inquiry into the impact of a trade restraint on competition. That inquiry is whether, under the circumstances of the case, a restraint’s predominant effect is to harm the competitive process. If so, the restraint is unlawful; if not, the restraint is lawful. To be sure, the application of the rule of reason is not that simple, but its central idea is.