Public vs. Private Enforcement of Antitrust Law: A Survey

Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Ilya Segal and Michael Whinston


Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 335, 2006


This paper compares public and private antitrust enforcement.

Policy Relevance

Whether letting private firms sue their rivals will benefit everyone or not depends on the costs. So far, these are unknown.

Main Points

  • In 2005, the European Commision (EC) proposed making it easier for private firms to bring antitrust suits against their rivals, like in the United States.

  • The best legal system keeps law enforcement costs low, and delivers public as well as private benefits.

  • Private firms and public enforcement officials acquire different kinds of information, at different cost, and reveal it for different reasons.

  • Giving private firms the power to bring antitrust suits has costs, including the risk of too much litigation. Public enforcement can also be costly. 

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