Marco Botta and Klaus Wiedemann ‘EU Competition Law Enforcement vis-à-vis Exploitative Conducts in the Data Economy’ Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 18-08

This long paper (90 pages), which can be found here, seeks to understand how traditional principles of EU law – particularly those related to exploitative abuses and respective remedies – apply to new business models that mainly rely on processing large amounts of users’ data. The analysis does not extend to the US because, following Trinko, the authors consider that antitrust law there does not extend to exploitative practices, even if the FTC has powers under the Sherman Act to pursue such practices under consumer and unfair practices law. I am afraid the review is rather long, because this paper’s contents are the equivalent of multiple articles. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 provides an overview of European case law vis-à-vis exploitative abuses. Art. 102 TFEU lists a number of exploitative abuses. Nevertheless, the European Commission has long focused on investigating exclusionary, rather than exploitative abuses. While this has led to limited case law on exploitative abuses, the authors identify…

Ariel Ezrachi on ‘EU Competition Law Goals and The Digital Economy’ (2018) Report for BEUC – The European Consumer Organisation

This paper  can be found here. I have already reviewed it in an earlier post. At the time, I focused on the article’s overview of the goals of EU competition law. However, the article also contained a detailed discussion of the impact that the digital economy may have on these goals. I was unable to review this discussion then, so I propose to do it here. Competition policy is one of several instruments used to advance the goals of the European Treaties. According to the European Commission, competition on the market is protected as a means of enhancing consumer welfare and of ensuring an efficient allocation of resources. This notwithstanding, EU competition law has also consistently been held to protect ‘not only the interests of competitors or of consumers, but also the structure of the market and, in so doing, competition as such.’ Moreover, a genuinely indigenous objective is worthy of note, namely that of promoting European market integration. In addition…

Jorge Padilla and John Davies ‘Another look at the economics of the UK CMA’s Phenytoin case’ in Excessive Pricing and Competition Law Enforcement (ed. Yannis Katsoulacos and Frédéric Jenny, 2018, Springer)

In this book chapter, the authors criticise the CMA for relying on the same evidence of a gap between prices and costs in its assessment of each of market definition, dominance and abuse. When coupled with the absence of analysis of comparator prices – which, the authors argue, the CMA replaced with a failed search for justifications for a price-cost gap when finding that the price was ‘unfair in itself’ – this could serve as a precedent for a fragile and unreliable approach to assessing excessive pricing. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the framework for assessing excessive pricing under European law (and its British equivalent). The paper builds on United Brands‘ two-step test, and particularly the requirement that am excessive price must exceed the “economic value” of the product to such an extent that the price bears “no reasonable relation” with that value. The legal test set out by the ECJ is as follows. First, the test…

Margherita Colangelo and Claudia Desogus ‘Antitrust Scrutiny of Excessive Prices in the Pharmaceutical Sector: A Comparative Study of the Italian and UK Experiences’ (2018) World Competition 41(2) 225

This article, which can be found here,  pursues a comparative analysis of the recent case law on excessive pricing in the pharmaceutical sector, examining in particular the Italian and UK experience. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 begins with a brief review of the existing literature on excessive prices in the EU. This section reviews the arguments for and against competition authorities intervening when prices are too high. On the one hand, it is argued that high prices should not be the subject of competition law intervention because such intervention may affect innovation incentives and dynamic efficiency; because high prices will attract competitors and, hence, will tend to self-correct; because there are high probabilities and costs of mistaken intervention; and because this is a task that should be left to specialised regulators. On the other hand, it is argued that correcting high prices directly increases consumer welfare, which is the goal of competition law; that high prices are not…

Sophie Lawrance and Edwin Bond on ‘Reverse-payment’ patent settlement agreements: non-cash value transfers are not immune from competition law scrutiny’ (2018) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 13(7) 552

This article – which can be found here – argues that a non-cash value transfer – particularly commitments by the producer of a branded drug not to launch a generic version of its drug – is able to bring a pay-for-delay agreement within the scope of the antitrust prohibition of reverse-payment patent settlement agreements. It does so as follows: The paper first looks at the law in the US as regards non-cash value transfer settlements. In its landmark 2013 FTC v, Actavis decision, the US Supreme Court held that pharmaceutical patent settlements which involve ‘large’ and ‘unexplained’ reverse payments may breach the antitrust rules. However, and as a result of the Supreme Court’s lack of detailed guidance, the lower US courts have in the last few years found themselves considering a fairly basic question: what constitutes a ‘payment’? While a couple of US district courts concluded that patent settlements that do not involve a cash transfer could not constitute unlawful…

Jose Luis da Cruz Vilaca on ‘The intensity of judicial review in complex economic matters – recent competition law judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU’ (2018) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 6(2) 173–188

The author of this paper, available here, was for a long time the President of the Court of First Instance (now the ECJ’s General Court). More importantly for our purposes here, he was also the CJEU judge responsible for drafting the Intel judgment. The paper is structured as follows: A first section reviews how EU courts approach judicial review in complex matters, and how this approach has evolved over time. For a number of years, the Court of Justice (ECJ) has taken a careful approach to the scope and intensity of review of Commission decisions as regards complex economic matters. From the outset, the Court conceived its role in competition matters as being limited to reviewing legality, and not as involving unlimited jurisdiction or full merits review (except as regards the imposition of fines). Since Consten & Grunding in 1966, the ECJ has acknowledged that the Commission must engage in complex evaluations of economic matters. The judicial review of these evaluations…

Michael J. Frese ‘Civil Liability for Single and Continuous Infringements’ (2018) World Competition 41 (2) 179

Infringement decisions by competition authorities in Europe provide irrefutable, or at least prima facie evidence of antitrust violations in follow-on cases brought before national courts. This binding effect of infringement decisions is meant to ease the burden on injured parties seeking to obtain damages. Evidentiary rules applicable to investigations thus have a bearing on the outcome of civil litigation and the scope of potential damages exposure. The single and continuous infringement (SCI) is an example of such an evidentiary rule. This legal construct alleviates the burden on competition authorities to prove individual details of cartels whose membership and activities may have evolved over time. However, appropriate limiting principles are required to ensure that defendants are not paying for harm they have not caused or could not have prevented. This article, available here, discusses the evidentiary value of single and continuous infringement findings in follow on damages litigation, and explores the available limiting principles. It is structured as follows: After the introduction,…

Ariel Ezrachi on ‘EU Competition Law Goals and The Digital Economy’ (2018) Report for BEUC – The European Consumer Organisation

This paper – which can be found here – remarks that questions regarding whether certain conducts pose competition problems have become increasingly common in the face of new business strategies, new forms of interaction with consumers, the accumulation of data and the use of big analytics. It argues that answers can only be provided by taking into account the goals and legal framework of specific competition regimes. The author focuses on the EU. The paper thus outlines the goals and values of European Competition law, and looks at how they apply to digital markets. The report is structured as follows: The paper begins with an introduction to the constitutional foundations of European Competition law. Competition policy is one of several instruments used to advance the goals of the European Treaties. In this context, competition rules must be interpreted in the light of the wider normative values of the EU. These are not limited to economic goals such as promoting consumer welfare, but…

Anne C. Witt ‘The Enforcement of Article 101 TFEU: What has happened to the Effects Analysis’ (2018) Common Market Law Review (55) 417

This paper – which You can find here – focuses on the role that priority setting and institutional dynamics can have on public competition enforcement. It argues that, while the Commission has developed an impressive theoretical framework for assessing the effects of agreements on competition, there has in fact been very little effects analysis in the Commission’s decisional practice since 2005. Instead, most cases have been decided as ‘object restrictions’. The paper is structured as follows: A first section briefly retraces how the Commission came to endorse a more effects-based approach to EU competition law generally, and to Article 101 TFEU in particular. By the late 1990s, commentators had been long criticising the Commission for relying too heavily on form-based presumptions of legality and illegality in its assessments under Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. Commentators pressed the Commission to scale back the use of form-based presumptions in favour of more individual assessments in line with contemporary US antitrust law. The Commission…

Markus Reisinger ‘Asics vs Coty: Competitive effects of selective distribution systems in light of diverging court decisions’

Selective distribution systems are usually put in place in place to ensure that authorized distributors fulfil a certain quality standard, thereby avoiding losses in consumers’ brand valuation. Selective distribution systems often include clauses that allow manufactures to achieve better channel coordination in terms of prices, advertising, services, etc. A common way to do so is to restrict their selective retailers in advertising or pricing practices (e.g. to ensure that advertising campaigns or sales are coordinated). The paper – which can be found here – looks at recent German and EU cases on selective distribution systems, and tries to understand the differences between them. In the Asics case, the German Bundeskartellamt (BKartA) ruled that a selective distribution system by sport shoe manufacturer Asics, which included restrictions regarding online advertisement and price search engines, infringed competition law. By contrast, in the Coty case the European Court of Justice ruled that relatively similar clauses in the selective distribution system of a beauty products manufacturer were…