A group of cable installation companies claiming Comcast canceled their subcontracting deals in favor of larger installers that charged the telecom giant less had their federal lawsuit tossed.
However, in granting Comcast’s motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani of the Middle District of Pennsylvania allowed plaintiffs Cable Line Inc. and McLaughlin Communications to file a second amended complaint.
The plaintiffs were hired by Comcast to perform cable installations in the Mid-Atlantic region. According to Mariani’s opinion, the companies were let go as part of Comcast’s reduction in its subcontractor pool. The plaintiffs allege that Comcast kept on larger installation companies—such as co-defendants Decisive Communications and Vitel Communications—because they underbilled Comcast by not acknowledging invoices, not billing for service calls, and falsifying performance metrics.
This, according to the plaintiffs, gave larger companies that could absorb the cost of underbilling an unfair advantage. The plaintiffs also claimed that after the contracts were terminated, they were forced to lay off workers.
Despite that, Mariani held that the plaintiffs failed to show they had standing to file antitrust claims.
“In this case, plaintiffs have not alleged that there are any market-wide anti-competitive effects beyond their own injury,” Mariani said.
The judge cited the Third Circuit in In re Mushroom Direct Purchaser Antitrust Litigation, in which the court held, “Business practices—however unseemly, hurtful, or otherwise unlawful—do not constitute antitrust violations unless they harm, or at least endanger, competition.”
Mariani also said that the plaintiffs’ argument that Comcast conspired with two suppliers of services to push others out of the market is not plausible.
“Comcast, as the end consumer in the cable installation market, has every motive to select the suppliers it views as the cheapest or easiest to work with,” Mariani said.
Additionally, Mariani said the plaintiffs failed to prove a conspiracy.
“The amended complaint attempts to equate Comcast’s decision to share the news of plaintiffs’ termination with a full-fledged conspiracy,” Mariani said. “But it is not an antitrust violation to inform defendants Vitel and Decisive that plaintiffs had been terminated before it informed plaintiffs.”
Charles D. Mandracchia of Mandracchia Law represents the plaintiffs and did not respond to a request for comment.
Nor did Steven A. Reed of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, who represented Comcast, or Douglas Weiner of Mazzeo Song for Decisive.
Joseph A. O’Brien of Oliver Price & Rhodes, who represented Vitel, said only, “We are pleased.”
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.