The Federal Trade Commission sued Intel Inc. yesterday for using "its dominant market position for a decade to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly." Something about the brainy chips — the central processing units — that drive computers.
The administrative suit shows a trial date of September 15, 2010. It invokes section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Section 5 bars unfair methods of competition but has lain dormant for many years. The FTC Chairman explained why the Commission took the unusual approach of basing its complaint solely on section 5 — with no count under the Sherman Act, which sets a tougher standard for liability:
[C]oncern over class actions, treble damages awards, and costly jury trials have caused many courts in recent decades to limit the reach of antitrust. The result has been that some conduct harmful to consumers may be given a "free pass" under antitrust jurisprudence, not because the conduct is benign but out of a fear that the harm might be outweighed by the collateral consequences created by private enforcement.
Intel called the case "misguided."