After a nine year wait, customers who filed an antitrust lawsuit against cable and Internet service provider Comcast will finally head to trial, a federal district judge decided on Thursday.
Originally filed in 2003, the suit alleges that Comcast used targeted promotions, unfair pricing, and other anticompetitive strategies to grab a dominant share of the market in some areas. The plaintiffs seek $875 million in damages, which they allege customers overpaid in cable bills as a result of Comcast’s actions. U.S. District Judge John R. Padova, presiding in Philadelphia, denied some of the suit’s claims, but says he will allow the case to go before a jury because some of Comcast’s tactics could be anticompetitive.
“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,” wrote Padova in his 74-page pre-trial opinion.
The lawsuit also claims that Comcast “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,” wrote Padova. Despite this, Padova says Comcast provided adequate evidence that some of its actions provided efficiencies for customers, and cannot be part of the suit.
“We are gratified at the court’s ruling dismissing several of plaintiff’s claims and limiting those that remain,” said Beth Bacha, a Comcast spokeswoman, in an email with Bloomberg. “We look forward to defending the smaller claims that remain and to winning a favorable ruling or verdict on those as well.”
Barry C. Barnett, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, also said he was pleased with Judge Padova’s decision.