A 2003 consumers’ $875 million antitrust lawsuit against cable-service operator Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US) is headed for trial after a federal judge in Philadelphia upheld some of the claims.
U.S. District Judge John Padova said allegations that Comcast targeted discounts for potential new customers may go to trial, while claims including blocking access to some contractors won’t, according to a 74-page ruling released yesterday.
“Because it possessed market power, its decision to target promotional discounts to deter a new entrant may be deemed predatory and an exercise of market power to maintain its monopoly,” Padova wrote of Comcast in his pre-trial opinion.
The judge also found “that Comcast has stated a legitimate procompetitive justification for its conduct with regard to cable infrastructure installation contractors.”
The lawsuit was filed by customers who contended the Philadelphia-based company wrongly “entered into agreements with its competitors to allocate the nation’s regional cable markets amongst themselves” and “used its monopoly power to raise cable prices to artificially high, supra-competitive levels,” according to Padova’s ruling.
$875 Million Sought
“We are pleased that we are going to go to trial on the core of our case that we filed back in 2003,” Barry C. Barnett, a lawyer representing customers, said today in a phone interview. “I think the jury will understand that Comcast did what we said it did.” He is seeking $875 million in damages.
“We are gratified at the court’s ruling dismissing several of plaintiff’s claims and limiting those that remain,” Beth Bacha, a Comcast spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We look forward to defending the smaller claims that remain and to winning a favorable ruling or verdict on those as well.”
Comcast fell 18 cents to $29.50 in Nasdaq stock market composite trading.
The case is Behrend v. Comcast, 03-cv-6604, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
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