Will review class-action issues in suit over monopoly

The Supreme Court will review a lower court’s ruling that customers could sue Comcast as a class action group in their claim that the cable provider created an anti-competitive monopoly in the Philadelphia market.

In an order issued on Monday, the high court said that its consideration of the case would be limited to the question of whether a district court could certify a class action “without resolving whether the plaintiff class has introduced admissible evidence, including expert testimony, to show that the case is susceptible to awarding damages on a class-wide basis.”

Comcast had sought the review, arguing that the class of plaintiffs did not have commonality of interest.

The case concerns Comcast’s amassing of cable systems in the Philadelphia region, either by acquiring systems or swapping ones it owns outside the market for ones it owns inside the area.

The plaintiffs, six customers of Comcast, brought suit in 2003, alleging conduct that shut out competition and eventually led to higher prices. A district court ruled in their favor in their efforts to sue as a class, something that is potentially more far reaching for Comcast, particularly when it comes to damages. In August, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district court “did not exceed its permissible discretion” in certifying the class or determining that there would be a methodology to determine damages.

In their decision, the 3rd circuit noted that Comcast’s share of the Philadelphia market “allegedly” increased from 23.9% in 1998 to 77.8% in 2002, settling at 69.5% in 2007.

Comcast also argued that the FCC and antitrust authorities approved the clustering in the Philadelphia market.

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