Elisabetta Maria Lanza and Paola Roberta Sfasciotti ‘Excessive Price Abuses: The Italian Aspen Case’ (2018) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 9(6) 382

This paper – which can be found here – is of particular interest because the authors were the case handlers in this case, which is one of the (very) few recent cases on excessive pricing. The paper begins with a discussion of why enforcement against excessive pricing is frowned upon by competition agencies (and absolutely discarded in the US). First, there may be a negative impact on investment caused by limits to a company’s freedom to set prices, which may limit its ability to recover capital invested in research. Second, in normal conditions regulatory intervention is unnecessary: the market will self-correct, because excessive prices will stimulate the entry of competitors into the market. Third, as a rule competition authorities seek to avoid having to decide what is the ‘correct’ or ‘fair’ price, since this would require a judgement which is closer to the competences of a sectoral regulator. Fourth, the analysis of situations of excessive pricing faces significant difficulties in…

Ioana Marinescu and Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Anticompetitive Mergers in Labour Markets’ (forthcoming) Indiana Law Journal (2018)

The paper – which can be found here – looks at mergers that facilitate anticompetitive wage and salary suppression from an antitrust perspective. It also looks at other potentially anticompetitive practice in labour markets, so the paper’s title is misleading. The paper’s fundamental argument is that that antitrust law is under-enforced as regards mergers affecting employment markets, and that this is important for several reasons. First, the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) going to labour has been declining at an alarming rate, and this seems to be correlated with an increase in market concentration. Second, US antitrust law does not condemn unilateral price setting by dominant firms – including the setting of wages. A second best solution to the problem of suppressed wages can therefore be found in merger law, which can interdict wage-suppressing mergers before they occur. Third, antitrust law is properly directed at all output reducing practices, and there is certainly no principled reason for excluding…

Suresh Naidu, Eric A. Posner, and E. Glen Weyl ‘Antitrust Remedies for Labor Market Power’ Harvard Law Review (forthcoming)

The paper – which can be found here –  criticises the historic imbalance between product and labour market antitrust enforcement, which has no basis in economic theory: from an economic standpoint, the dangers to public welfare posed by product and labour market power are exactly the same. It is argued that antitrust agencies should take more seriously the danger that mergers may lead to labour market power as well as product market power. The paper is organised as follows: The introduction tries to explain why antitrust has traditionally ignored labour markets. Four explanations are advanced: (i) while economic theory treats product and labour markets similarly, legal theory has placed more emphasis on product markets as a result of a focus on consumer welfare; (ii) it was assumed that labour markets are reasonably competitive, and that labour market power was not an important social problem; (iii) the traditional legal approach to protecting workers, which took place “outside” antitrust law, may have…

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…

Ioannis Lianos & Pierre Regibeau “Vexatious”/”Sham” Litigation: When can it Arise and How can it be Reduced?’ (2017) Antitrust Bulletin 62(4) 643-689

It is possible that companies may, through regulatory and litigation processes, be able to exclude or marginalize their competitors from the market and therefore charge higher prices, limit output, maintain the status quo price, or diminish innovation. But while these strategies may offer a cheap mechanism for non-price predation, litigation and regulatory process have been set up to protect public goods regardless of the risk that their use may negatively impact competition. Furthermore: ‘assessing on a case-by-case basis the welfare effects of each use of the regulatory and litigation process through some form of sophisticated cost benefit analysis would be too burdensome and would generate too much uncertainty, chilling the legitimate use of such governmental processes and thus frustrating their aims. For this reason, in practice, the use of the regulatory and/or litigation process stays presumptively outside the scope of competition law, through the operation of some form of antitrust immunity, in both the U.S. and in Europe, this being…

Angela Daly ‘Beyond Hipster Antitrust:  A Critical Perspective on the European Commission’s Google Decision’ (2017) European Competition and Regulation Law Review 1(3) 188

The argument of this article – which can be found here – is straightforward: “competition law as it stands is not well-equipped to address (all of) the problems a very large concentration of private power such as Google poses to Internet users. However, unlike the ‘antitrust hipsters’, it is argued that reform to competition law is insufficient – other areas of law and regulation may be more appropriately employed to ensure user autonomy in these circumstances.” The paper begins with an extremely cursory analysis of the Commission’s decision in the Google case. Since the decision is not yet published, the paper relies on comments from the Competition Commissioner that there was an abuse because Google: “promoted its own comparison shopping service in its generic search results, and demoted the results of its competitors, with the effect that competitors were ‘denied… the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate’ and European consumers were ‘denied… a genuine choice of services…

Michael A. Carrier ‘Sharing, Samples, and Generics: An Antitrust Framework’ (2017) Cornell Law Review 103(1) 1

This paper – which you can find here – looks at a specific type of obstacle to generic entry: refusals by originators to share samples of branded medicines. As is often the case in this sector, this practice takes advantage of the existing regulatory scheme, in this case in the US. This strategy involves risk-management programs known as Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (“REMS”). Pursuant to legislation, REMS are required when a drug’s risks (such as death or injury) outweigh its rewards. According to the author, brands have used this regime, intended to bring drugs to the market, to block generic competition. The paper is structured as follows: Part I provides a background on REMS, offering a history and overview of these programs before examining the concerns they raise regarding blocking generic entry. The FDA has defined REMS as “required risk management plans that use risk minimization strategies beyond the professional labeling to ensure that the benefits of certain prescription drugs outweigh…

Sandra Marco Colino, Niamh Dunne, Knut Fournier, Sofia Pais, Derek Ritzmann ‘The Lundbeck case and the Concept of Potential Competition’ (2017) Concurrences n° 2-2017

This paper – which can be found here – contains the reflections of a number of legal scholars about European decisions regarding reverse settlement payments (also known as “pay for delay” agreements). Reverse settlement payments consist of payments by the owner of IP rights to entities that are challenging such rights in court – and they are particularly important in the pharmaceutical sector, where producers of generic drugs may challenge the IP of branded drugs, and the owner of the drug may pay the generics’ company not to challenge his/her/its IP (and, thus, not to enter the market). As noted in the introduction: “Schemes of this nature are bound to set off alarm bells in the mind of the antitrust erudite. Delaying the entry of would-be competitors would almost certainly entail pushing back the benefits typically derived from a competitive market, the very ones that competition law was designed to protect. And yet the fact remains that, when reverse payment agreements are entered…

Friso Bostoen ‘Margin Squeeze – Where competition law and sector regulation compete’ (2017) 53 Jura Falconis 3

This paper – which you can find here – provides an overview of margin squeeze as an antitrust infringement – i.e. the situation where a dominant undertaking charges “a price for the product on the upstream market which, compared to the price it charges on the downstream market, does not allow even an equally efficient competitor to trade profitably in the downstream market on a lasting basis”. The paper also looks at the relationship between margin squeeze and sectoral regulation. The article starts with an overview of the different ways an undertaking can abuse its dominant position through pricing (chapter 2). It then defines margin squeeze (chapter 3), before looking at how margin squeeze is assessed in a number of EU cases (chapter 4) and into the role of the as-efficient-competitor test in identifying margin squeeze situations (chapter 5). It then discusses why some undertakings appear to be more susceptible to commit this abuse than others, and lists the traits such…