Antitrust law has three main elements:
- prohibiting agreements or practices that restrict free trading and competition between business. This includes in particular the repression of free trade caused by cartels.
- banning abusive behavior by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a dominant position. Practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal, and many others.
- supervising the mergers and acquisitions of large corporations, including some joint ventures. Transactions that are considered to threaten the competitive process can be prohibited altogether, or approved subject to “remedies” such as an obligation to divest part of the merged business or to offer licenses or access to facilities to enable other businesses to continue competing.
Substance and practice of Antitrust law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Protecting the interests of consumers (consumer welfare) and ensuring that entrepreneurs have an opportunity to compete in the market economy are often treated as important objectives. Antitrust law is closely connected with law on deregulation of access to markets, state aids and subsidies, the privatization of state owned assets and the establishment of independent sector regulators, among other market-oriented supply-side policies. In recent decades, Antitrust law has been viewed as a way to provide better public services. Robert Bork has argued that Antitrust laws can produce adverse effects when they reduce competition by protecting inefficient competitors and when costs of legal intervention are greater than benefits for the consumers.