Inara Scott ‘Antitrust and Socially Responsible Collaboration: A Chilling Combination?’

This paper, published in the American Business Law Journal and available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ablj.12073, argues that efforts by companies to engage in socially beneficial activities (in human rights, environmental issues, labour standards, etc.) may infringe antitrust provisions. Part I sets forth the economic and business justifications for collaborating across businesses, including those between and among competitors, and provides examples of key types of these collaborations. Part II considers the application of antitrust laws and examines the struggle to determine to what extent courts may find the collaborative practices described in Part I acceptable. Based on this analysis, Part III then examines the chilling effect of antitrust law on socially responsible collaborations and considers changes necessary to facilitate these types of transactions. While the article focuses on the Sherman Act, which language is indeed more open than that of subsequent competition acts, the problem the paper discusses is common to most jurisdictions: how is antitrust to respond to these potentially beneficial cooperative efforts,…

Giancarlo Spagnolo and Catarina Marvão ‘Cartels and Leniency: Taking stock of what we learnt’

This paper, available at https://ideas.repec.org/p/hhs/hasite/0039.html, reviews the literature on the incentives of leniency applicants.  It is a really useful piece for anyone doing leniency work, and extremely thorough. It is not possible to  provide a summary of the paper: it reviews too many papers and possible scenarios (the first section looks at economic models, the second at empirical evidence). If there is a basic argument underpinning all of this, it seems to be that incentives to increase cartel enforcement results may not be well-aligned with maximising welfare /  may lead to excessively generous leniency conditions; and that leniency reduces collusion but that the EU is too nice to cartelists and extends leniency to far too many companies.

Elisabeth de Ghellinck ‘The As-Efficient-Competitor Test

This paper, published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice and available at https://academic.oup.com/jeclap/article-abstract/7/8/544/2194480, looks at the as efficient competitor test (known as AEC by its acquaintances) – the economic test that refuses to come to life (and God knows that some have tried to breathe life into it). After the European Commission tried to make this test the cornerstone of its enforcement activities on abusive practices (in its Guidance on Enforcement Priorities for Exclusionary Practices), and the European Courts first dismissed the relevance of the test in virtually all scenarios (Post Danmark II) before saying that it may actually be useful under certain circumstances (Intel), we have this piece is by an economist trying to identify when the test can be useful. A number of conclusions are reached, in particular:  it is sensible to decide that an AEC test is not a prerequisite for establishing the abusive character of a retroactive rebate scheme, since such a test can only…

Frederic Jenny ‘Abuse of dominance by firms charging excessive or unfair prices: an assessment’

This is a paper by Fred Jenny  for the Israeli competition authority on excessive pricing – the competition law infraction that refuses to die, and is arguably making a comeback. The paper can be found at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2880382. It reviews the debate that has taken place among economists on what the definition of excessive prices could be and whether the control of excessive prices by competition authorities would in fact promote or discourage competition. The paper is structured as follows: Section I takes stock of the enforcement activities of competition authorities against high prices (or the lack of enforcement) in a number of countries; Section II analyses the general arguments in favour or against the enforcement of provisions sanctioning excessive pricing abuses by dominant companies or monopolies; Section III examines the risks associated with wrongful decisions by competition authorities in this area and the cost of such errors; Section IV analyses the economic screens which have been proposed by various economists to…

Michal S. Gal and Niva Elkin-Koren ‘Algorithmic Consumers’

This paper, published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology and available at https://jolt.law.harvard.edu/assets/articlePDFs/v30/30HarvJLTech309.pdf, focuses on the use of algorithms by consumers to orient and even take decisions regarding their purchases. The basic argument is that, with the Internet of Things, systems will move from merely making recommendations to making and executing decisions for the consumer by directly communicating with other systems through the internet. As rightly pointed out in the article, this is not unheard of: in some industries, such as stock trading, algorithms already automatically translate their results into buying decisions; there is even a washing machine that makes autonomous orders and payments (e.g., buying detergent) and updates the owner via a smartphone. The paper usefully contains a literature review on algorithmic competition (which, it must be said, is still rather limited). It also makes some valuable points, such as: algorithmic consumers may submit suppliers to increased competitive pressures and change the parameters of competition (since they will be able…

Julie Cohen ‘The Regulatory State in the Information Age’

This paper, published in Theoretical Inquiries in Law, and available at eial.tau.ac.il/index.php/til/article/download/1425/1501, is only for the more academically minded and those who are interested in deep theory of regulation and competition law.  It focuses on the challenges that the information society poses to traditional modes of regulation, and provides food for thought and a potential starting point to try to think about challenges to competition law / economic regulation in a wider context. This is despite the repeated use of academic jargon and expressions such as “neoliberal” to mean “unfortunate ideas/developments”. Thus, mariner beware: here be dragons. The arguments made in this paper(which I do not necessarily share) include, among others: (i) that concepts used in classic regulatory schemes (such as market definition and market power for antitrust) were developed for different economic structures and are not very well suited to the information age, which is prone to oligopolistic/undefined markets and platforms markets/infrastructures that are interdependent, create strong path-dependencies and exert…

Steve Salop and Jonathan Baker ‘Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Inequality’

Originally circulated on 4 December 2016 This article, published in the Georgetown Law Review, is one of the first ones I am aware of on how public concerns about inequality may affect antitrust enforcement and competition policy. It argues that, among a number of other (arguably more important) factors, market power and increased concentration have led to increasing inequality. Technological change has created more markets with intellectual property protection or network effects, which allow firms to achieve market power. The adoption of more permissive antitrust rules during the past quarter-century has also likely increased the prevalence of market power. Since the returns of market power accrue to capital, which belongs to a minority of the population –usually the richest segment –, this increases the surplus of producers and, with it, inequality. The article provides a flavour of the times – and includes a useful review of the literature on competition and inequality, and of possible initiatives that agencies/legislators may adopt…