This paper,  by a senior staff member of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, is the first attempt I know of to address the implications of the blockchain for competition law. It can be found here: https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/compliance-and-enforcement-in-a-blockchained-world/

The paper first defines key terms to ensure that the reader understands the main concepts related to the blockchain, which are obscure to the uninitiated – concepts such as “distributed ledger”, ‘smart contract”, and, let’s be honest, “blockchain”. A second section then lists the potential benefits of blockchain technologies in the enforcement of competition law. According to the author, the most pertinent utility of a blockchain in competition enforcement is likely to be related to obtaining and processing large volumes of transactional and non-transactional data – which can be relevant for merger control, cartel investigations and, at a minimum, for monitoring commitments in abuse of dominance matters. The third and last section is devoted to the potential of the blockchain for the implementation of competition compliance programs.

A few examples are provided as to each of these potential uses, including:

  • The level of granularity and reliability promised by blockchains is likely to lead to better price correlation analysis, past shocks analysis and demand estimation. While blockchain technology is unlikely to replace all traditional sources of market data for the better part of the next decade, assuming a majority of undertakings eventually transition onto blockchain platforms, the blockchain will allows us to better populate target datasets and speed up data collection – leading to more informed, robust and accurate competition assessments. Further, the blockchain will ensure that the speed and granularity of data collection will be matched by its reliability.
  • Regarding cartels, leniency applicants using blockchain technology will be able to provide access to a live data stream on all relevant transactions falling within the alleged cartel arrangement.
  • Smart contracts could be relevant for monitoring commitments –so that software releases only take place if they are also compliant with binding commitments to competition authorities – or for the transfer and licensing of standard essential patents.

The paper is short, to the point and not very detailed. I’d also say it is essential reading at this point – and I’m pretty sure it is the first of many papers on the blockchain and competition law.

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