Consumers, Farmers, AAI Jointly Call on Senate Judiciary Committee to Demand Administration Vigorously Enforce the Antitrust Laws, Not Walk Away from Microsoft Case

Mar 13 2001
Testimony and Interventions

This letter was provided to the media at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2001.

The Senate Judiciary Committee U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators:

As the nation's leading consumer and antitrust advocates, we are concerned that antitrust laws critical to protecting consumers are in danger of being irreparably weakened. Antitrust law is the legal underpinning of consumer protection, helping to ensure competition in the marketplace so businesses grow and provide consumers with choice, innovation, and fair prices.

You have an opportunity critical to your constituents - consumer and business alike - to signal your commitment to competition and a marketplace fair to consumers by pressing the importance of antitrust enforcement as you consider the nomination of Charles James as Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust division of the Justice Department.

Antitrust is important to every industry in which competition is threatened by the illegal activities of monopolists. As airlines consolidate, consumers grow more and more dependent on antitrust to guarantee choice, fair pricing and good service. In the food and agriculture industries, alliances between food processors and retailers are similar to the trusts of old that stifled competition and controlled pricing in their industry. As a result, family farms and cooperatives are also increasingly reliant on antitrust laws for protection.

Nowhere is the commitment to antitrust enforcement and consumer protection more important than in the government's case against Microsoft Corp.-considered by many as the most important antitrust case in our nation's history. In this historic case, Microsoft was found guilty of massive antitrust violations that hurt consumers and illegally stifled competition. The case has far reaching consequences for our economy, for one of our nation's most vibrant and important industries, and most importantly, for consumers who deserve to benefit from today's high tech revolution with low prices and more choices.

As you know, a Reagan-appointed judge has found Microsoft guilty of illegally sustaining and extending monopolies in distinct software markets. The company has been deemed so untrustworthy that the only solution was to split the company in two. But U.S. v. Microsoft Corp. is larger than Microsoft, larger than the software industry, and larger than even the new economy. This is precedent. A weak ruling or a weak settlement undermines antitrust law - for software users, for airline passengers, for farmers, for all consumers. It will allow monopolies to strangle competition and, in doing so, raise prices, stifle innovation and slow the economy.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you are on the front line for consumers and businesses. And it is for businesses and consumers that you can put this Administration on the record as a tough defender of competition and consumers. Critical questions should be asked of Mr. James and this Administration that speak directly to their commitment to the Microsoft trial and to our antitrust laws. Specifically, we want to ensure that the Administration will pursue the case against Microsoft until its monopoly is eliminated. To do otherwise would be a mistake of immeasurable proportions.

We urge you to put Mr. James on the record on the Microsoft case, to gain his commitment to prosecute a case the government has already won or to advocate the appeal to the Supreme Court of any reversal that might undermine the reach of the antitrust laws. We look forward to discussing this with you further. In advance, on behalf of consumers across your state and our nation, thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Linda Golodner President National Consumers League

Leland Swenson President National Farmers Union

Mark Cooper Director of Research Consumer Federation of America

Albert A. Foer President American Antitrust Institute