Paul Nihoul, Freedom of choice: The emergence of a powerful concept in European competition law, September 2012, Concurrences Review N° 3-2012, Art. N° 48102, pp. 55

This chapter – which can be found here – argues that a number of European Commission and European court decisions bring to the forefront a legal test that has so far merited limited attention—the concept of choice, understood as the possibility, and the right, for customers to choose freely both the products/services best suited to their needs, and the economic partners they want to deal with. This legal test is analysed in this essay, which is divided into three parts: Part II examines cases where this new test is said to emerge more clearly. These are mainly Art. 102 TFEU cases – and the most important one is, arguably, a case regarding predatory pricing of internet services by France Telecom. France Telecom argued that recoupment was necessary for pricing below costs to be anticompetitive. The European Court of Justice dismissed this argument. Even if consumers would benefit from lower prices on aggregate, this would not eliminate all competitive harm: inasmuch…

David Evans ‘The Economics of Attention Markets’

This paper – which can be found here – describes the fundamental economic features of the markets where attention platforms acquire time from consumers, and then sell access to that time to advertisers who want to deliver messages to those consumers – and introduces an economic framework that should assist in the application of competition law in these markets. It is structured as follows: Section II introduces an economic framework for analysing the allocation of time by consumers, which is one of the main competitive vectors in certain platform markets. It begins by describing the amount of time that American consumers spend consuming content on ad-supported media. It then relies on the economic theory of household production to analyse the value to consumers of the time they spend on such media. In the basic model, people derive utility from a range of household activities, each of which consists of a combination of market goods and time spent on them. People…

Thibault Schrepel ‘The “Enhanced No Economic Sense’ Test: Experimenting with Predatory Innovation’ (forthcoming on the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law).

The paper – which can be downloaded here – seeks to deal with a significant challenge for competition law, which has become more prominent with the proliferation of high tech markets: several practices, and particularly non-price strategies, fall outside the scope of competition law because mechanisms for assessing their legality are not adequate. The author’s ambition is to contribute to the literature by advancing a new test, called the “enhanced no economic sense” test, to be applied to non-price strategies. The paper proceeds in three steps: The first part presents the enhanced no-economic sense test. This test is based on the simple idea that a practice should be regarded as anti-competitive if it only makes sense from an economic point of view because of its tendency to eliminate or to restrict competition. Unlike the ‘profit sacrifice test’, the no-economic sense test allows for the condemnation of practices that do not lead to the infringer. The test follows four steps: Step…

Nicolas Petit ‘Technology Giants, the Moligopoly Hypothesis and Holistic Competition’

The gist of the argument in this paper – which can be found here – is intriguing, and plausible: tech giants do not compete within itemized relevant markets where they are monopolists. Instead, they are conglomerates that compete three-dimensionally as oligopolists across industries, which is what the author meant by a moligopoly. This blindness of antitrust to competition across markets is likely to lead to mistakes, and should be rectified. The paper is structured as follows: Section I sets out the moligopoly hypothesis and tests it by reference to empirical data. The author begins by reviewing how the competition law literature’s default position is to characterise the tech giants as dominant firms. Competition law focuses on one industry segment – i.e. a “relevant market” – where the investigated tech giants often enjoy unassailable clout, and where substitution by actual or potential rivals is unlikely. For example, Google’s competitive stronghold is search, Apple’s core is its unique ecosystem, Facebook’s moat is…

David Evans  ‘Why the Dynamics of Competition for Online Platforms Lead to Sleepless Nights but Not to Sleepy Monopolies’

This paper – which can be found here – makes more use of the dismal science than the paper above, but makes a similar point: claims that online platforms have secured permanent monopolies protected by barriers to entry arising from network effects and stockpiles of data are inconsistent with economics, the technology literature, and the history of online competition. The paper is structured as follows: Section I provides an Introduction. It notes that: “The record is replete with forecasts, soon proved wrong and then forgotten, that winners that took all, or most, were unbeatable’. Furthermore, there are four reasons why comparison to old staid corporate giants is unsuited to online platforms. First, turbulent waves of disruptive innovation have constantly shaken the business models of platform leaders and opened new avenues for entry and competition since the dawn of the digital age. Second, online platforms pegged as leaders in one area compete with each other in many other areas. They identify…

ric Biber, Sarah Light (Berkeley), J. B. Ruhl, and James Salzman (UCLA) “Regulating Business Innovation as Policy Disruption: From the Model T to Airbnb” (2017) 70 Vand. L. Rev. 1561

The argument of this paper – which can be found here – is straightforward: scholarship about the platform economy has been ahistorical; focusing on the immediacy and novelty of the platform economy misses the fact that its interaction with the legal system does not raise fundamentally new questions from a law and policy perspective. From a business or economic perspective, history is full of technological and management advances that fundamentally disrupted business models over a brief period of time. This is not to say that current developments do not pose challenges to public policy. Regulatory policy generally—even necessarily—presumes a certain kind of organizational model for the activities that it regulates.  When business innovation upends that pre-existing model, the result is a disjunction between the structure of the regulatory system and the industry that is being regulated: a policy disruption. This has occurred in the past. Debates over whether and how the regulatory system should adjust to the rise of platforms…

Stefan Holzweber ‘Market Definition for Multi-Sided Platforms: A Legal Reappraisal’ (2017) World Competition 40(4) 563

The article – which can be found here – seeks to analyse, from both an economic and a legal perspective, how relevant product markets for multi-sided platforms are defined under  European competition law. It starts from the premise that delimiting the relevant product market in the context of multi-sided platforms is a particularly delicate and complex task. This is because well-established economic approaches for defining product markets were not designed to deal with  multi-sided platforms, which address at least two distinct groups of customers. The paper further argues that multi-sidedness can be considered a question of degree. Therefore, for the purpose of using standard concepts of market definition, it is necessary to distinguish between different types of multi-sided platforms – the stronger the indirect network effects involved, the more the market definition will deviate from traditional approaches. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 puts multi-sided platforms in an economic context, building on the literature on network effects. These…

Richard Ward ‘Testing for Multisided Platform Effects in Antitrust Market Definition’ (2017) University of Chicago Law Review 84 2059

The paper – which can be found here – begins by observing that, if the relevant market is defined as including all sides of the platform, this creates a broader space of allowable trade-offs between pro- and anti-competitive effects than if the definition encompasses fewer sides. Thus, it matters crucially to case outcomes whether and how courts incorporate “multi-sidedness” during market definition. This paper suggests an approach that courts should follow when making such decisions. Part I explores the challenges inherent in market definition. First, it outlines how the US case law requires market definition in antitrust analysis, and describes how this case law structures market definition analyses. Second, the practical difficulties of pursuing market definition exercises in practice are explored. Part II addresses the added challenge of deciding whether a relevant market should comprise all, some, or no sides of the platform. It describes the economic approach to multisided platforms – which I will not focus on here, because…

Kenneth A. Bamberger and Orly Lobel ‘Platform Market Power’ (2018) 32 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 1051

In this paper – which can be found here – the authors seek to develop a framework for considering the market power of platform companies that use digital technology to connect a multisided network of individual users. Throughout, they use Uber as an example.  The framework identifies a number of questions that may be helpful in assessing whether a platform has market power. The first question one should ask is whether the success of a platform is a result of innovation or of undesirable regulatory arbitrage. The authors argue that understanding the net impact of digital platforms requires careful inquiry into the gains arising from the entry of platforms into mature markets and their disruption of staid industries; and to the harm they may pose to regulatory protections set out to protect valuable social goods. This means that antitrust law cannot be asked to answer – as it has been asked to do by some authors – questions of regulatory…