United States v. Grinnell Corporation/Dissent Harlan

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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinions
Harlan
Fortas

United States Supreme Court

384 U.S. 563

UNITED STATES  v.  GRINNELL CORPORATION

 Argued: March 28 and 29, 1966. --- Decided: June 13, 1966


Mr. Justice HARLAN, dissenting in Nos. 73-77.

I cannot agree with the Court that the relevant market has been adequately proved. I do not dispute that a national market may be found even though immediate competition takes place only within individual communities, some of which are themselves natural monopolies. For a national monopoly of such local enterprises may still have serious long-term impact on competition and be vulnerable on its own plane to the antitrust laws. In the product market also the Court seems to me to make out a good enough case for lumping together the different kinds of central station protective service (CSPS). But I cannot agree that the facts so far developed warrant restricting the product market to accredited CSPS.

Because the ultimate issue is the effective power to control price and competition, this Court has always recognized that the market must include products or services 'reasonably interchangeable' with those of the alleged monopolist. United States v. E. I. du Pont De Nemours & Co., 351 U.S. 377, 395, 76 S.Ct. 994, 1007, 100 L.Ed. 1264. In this instance, there is no doubt that the accredited CSPS business does compete in some measure with many other forms of hazard protection: watchmen, local alarms, proprietary systems, telephone-connected services, unaccredited CSPS, direct-connected (to police and fire stations) systems, and so forth. The critical question, then, is the extent of competition from these rivals.

The Government and the majority have stressed that differences in cost, reliability and insurance discounts may disqualify a competing form of protection for a particular customer. For example, it is said that proprietary systems are too expensive for any but large companies and local alarms may go unanswered in some neighborhoods. But if in general a CSPS customer has a feasible alternative to CSPS, it does not much matter that other ones are foreclosed to him, nor that other CSPS customers have different second choices. From this record, it may well be that other forms of protection are each competitive enough with segments of the CSPS market so that in sum CSPS rarely has a monopoly position.

From the defense standpoint, there is substantial evidence showing that the defendants do feel themselves under pressure from other forms of protection, that they do compete for customers, and that they do lower prices even in areas where no CSPS competition is present. This concrete evidence of market behavior seems to me to rank higher than the kind of inference proof heavily relied on by the Government-physical differences between competing forms of protection, self-advertising claims of CSPS companies that they represent a superior service and varying insurance discounts. Given that the burden of proof rests upon the Government, the record leaves me with such misgivings as to the validity of the District Court's findings on this score that I am not prepared to agree that the Government has made the showing of market domination that the law demands before a business is sundered.

At the same time the case must be recognized as a close one, and I am not ready to say at this stage that the findings and conclusions of the District Court might not be supportable. All things considered, I join with my Brothers Fortas and Stewart to the extent of voting to remand the case for further proceedings so that new findings can be made as to the relevant product market. This course seems to me the more appropriate in light of the fact that because of the Expediting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 29 (1964 ed.), we have not had the benefit of any intermediate appellate sifting of this record. In view of the disposition I propose, I do not consider any of the other questions in the case.

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).