Alfonso Lamadrid ‘Shortcuts in the Era of Digitisation’ (2019) CPI Antitrust Chronicle – October

Competition law is arguably one of the areas of least importance when it comes to the major societal challenges posed by digitalisation. Nonetheless, competition law has been advertised as a sort of miraculous tool that would right all wrongs. In this context, the idea of entrusting a Report to three independent Special Advisers before advancing a reorientation of the competition rules was a very sensible initiative on the part of the European Commission. However, the author does not really agree with the report’s conclusions. He explain why in a paper that can be found here. Section two discusses what are the specific problems that digital markets raise for competition law. The first question to ask is whether there is consensus about competition problems in digital markets. If the answer is in the affirmative, we then need to ask whether we can address those problems while still preserving the benefits flowing from digitisation. The Report and other similarly-timed initiatives suggest that there…

Peter Alexiadis and Alexandre de Streel  ‘Designing an EU Intervention Standard for Digital Gatekeepers’ (working paper)

This paper is quite long and dense, so I am afraid this review will be both as well. A series of studies and reports on digital platforms have suggested that antitrust policy requires an overhaul. This view is driven by the belief that, as regards digital markets, the risk of making “Type 2” errors (i.e., under-enforcement) is greater than the risk of making “Type 1” errors (i.e., over-enforcement); and that, in addition to competition enforcement, there may be a role for regulation as well. While the authors take the view that the imperative for radical change is less pressing in the European Union than elsewhere, it is nonetheless appropriate to develop a blueprint for intervention against digital platforms both ex post and ex ante. This blueprint is developed as follows: A first section outlines the principles governing when to intervene in the digital economy. The Internet has generated significant levels of consumer welfare. Digital markets nevertheless have characteristics which lend…

Marc van der Voude ‘Judicial Control in Complex Economic Matters’ (2019) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 10(7) 415

Already in the early 1960’s, the Court of Justice made clear that the application of competition law depends on contextual analysis that takes a wide range of economic and legal factors into account. Modern economics provides useful tools to deal with competition matters. The European Commission increasingly relies on these ‘mainstream’ economics in its assessment of competition cases, and courts have to make up their own mind on the merits of the Commission’s complex assessments and of the economic concepts on which the Commission relied to that effect. What kind of judicial control are the Union courts supposed to exercise over these complex assessments?  Under the current system set up by Article 263 TFEU, judicial review by the General Court, which has the final say on the interpretation of the facts of the case, is limited to the review of the legality of the Commission’s decision. In its case law, the Court of Justice has traditionally used formulae that suggest…

Massimiliano Kadar ‘Article 102 and Exclusivity Rebates in a Post-Intel World: Lessons from the Qualcomm and Google Android Cases’ (2019) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 10(7) 439

Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits behaviour by a dominant undertaking that is capable of harming competition. The notion of ‘capability to harm competition’ has been at the centre of the legal and economic debate for many years. A strict interpretation of ‘capability’ would require evidence of actual or quasi-actual effects on the market in the form of, for example, the exit of existing competitors or sustained price increases. A lax interpretation of capability could make it possible to enforce competition rules also in circumstances where harm to competition is purely hypothetical and not supported by concrete evidence. This discussion – which is ultimately about the level of the standard of proof – not only influences the likelihood of Type 1 and Type 2 letters, but also the amount of resources that administrative agencies needs to devote to individual enforcement cases. Modulating this impact are presumptions, which can lead to significant savings…

Yannis Katsoulacos ‘Substantive Criteria and Legal Standards in Recent Abuse of Dominance Cases across the Atlantic’ (2019) CPI Antitrust Chronicle March

Legal standards in competition law fall across an analytical continuum whose boundaries are set, respectively, by categorical rules of condemnation (per se illegality) or acquittal (per se legality) on the one end, and an elaborate, fact-intensive assessment of reasonableness (Rule of Reason) on the other. These poles are connected by a range of intermediate tests that seek to combine some of the clarity and economy of bright-line rules with the greater analytical accuracy that a fuller examination of evidence can produce – e.g. in the US, the modified per se and the truncated effects based tests. This paper, available here, reviews a number of recent cases in high technology markets on both sides of the Atlantic (Intel, Google, QUALCOMM), to compare how abusive practices are treated in Europe and the US. Section II compares legal tests in the EU and the US. In the EU, there are multiple goals guiding antitrust enforcement. Under the influence of a strong Ordo-Liberal tradition, the…

Giorgio Monti ‘Abuse of a Dominant Position: A Post-Intel Calm?’ (2019) Competition Policy International – Antitrust Chronicle March

The EU’s abuse of dominance doctrines have been criticised for two reasons. The first is their focus on the form of the conduct rather than on the relevant theory of harm; the second is that the law is applied to protect rivals of the dominant firm without requiring a showing that this would improve economic welfare. Several commentators considered that the Commission’s 2009 Guidance Paper on Exclusionary Abuses brought a paradigm shift to the analysis of Article 102, moving towards a more economics and effects’ based approach. A question that remained was how the courts would react to this. Some decisions – such as Post Danmark I – seemed to move towards the approach adopted in the Guidance Paper, while others – such as Telia Sonera or Post Danmark II – seemed to revert to a more expansive and formalistic approach to Article 102 TFEU. This paper, available here, asks whether the recent move back towards a more effects’ based…

John Ratliff ‘Unilateral conduct in the energy sector: An overview of EU and national case law’ (2019) Concurrences Special Issue Energy & Dominance

This paper, available here, provides an overview of European Commission (“EC”) and European national competition authorities’ (“NCAs”) practice as regards the application of competition rules to unilateral conduct in the energy sector. It covers more than 120 cases, including national court judgments and investigations up to June 2019. While the article divides the various practices into 19 different sections, I will do so as follows: In the introduction, the author summarises European and national approaches, as well as recent developments. The 2007 EU Energy Sector Inquiry prompted much enforcement of Art. 102 TFEU in the energy sector. Most of enforcement concerned traditional foreclosure practices in relation to infrastructure capacity, access to the infrastructure, capacity hoarding and withholding of generation capacity. Other cases have dealt with new types of abuse, such as strategic underinvestment and market manipulation, and there have also been cases on excessive pricing. Energy markets remain a priority for the European Commission. Recent developments include closing investigations against…

Michael Funk and Christian Jaag ‘The More Economic Approach to Predatory Pricing’ (2018) Journal of Competition Law & Economics 14(2) 292

This paper, available here, argues that legal requirements and economic reasoning are not aligned as regards predatory pricing. Predation is not a strategy predominately used by ex ante dominant firms, but rather a strategy to gain ex post dominance. Consequently, the current legal practice in Europe and other jurisdictions, which requires ex ante dominance to pursue predatory pricing, makes the prosecution of predatory pricing virtually impossible because it overlooks the basic economic rationale for predatory pricing. This inconsistency has become even more severe because the adoption of a “more economic approach”: in fact, the more accurate the economic assessment is, the less probable is a conviction of harmful predation under the current legal framework. The authors suggest prohibiting predatory pricing independently from other exclusionary abuses. Instead, predatory pricing should be subject to the same analytical framework as mergers, where a similar economic and business logic applies. Since recoupment of predation is akin to the unilateral effects arising from the merger…

Or Brook ‘Struggling with Article 101(3) TFEU: Diverging Approaches of the Commission, EU Courts and Five Competition Authorities’ (2019) Common Market Law Review 56: 121

Since May 2004, the European Commission and national competition authorities (NCAs) have applied the EU competition provisions in parallel. Nowadays, almost 90% of antitrust investigations are carried out by NCAs. This decentralised enforcement regime builds on the assumption that the obligation to apply the same competition provisions is sufficient to ensure the uniform administration of the law. This paper, available here, argues that this assumption does not hold, as least as regards efficiency justification/defences. Since the application of the EU competition provisions involves a wide margin of discretion, national, economic and political traditions risk leading to the fragmented application of competition law. The paper presents empirical evidence that the Commission, EU courts and five national competition authorities have followed very different interpretations of Article 101(3) TFEU, which regulates efficiency justification/defences in Europe. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 outlines the study’s empirical methodology. The paper uses a database comprising: (i) all European Commission and court decisions until 2017;…

Giuseppe Colangelo and Mariateresa Maggiolino ‘Applying Two-Sided Markets Theory: the MasterCard and American Express Decisions’ (2018) Journal of Competition Law & Economics 14(1) 115

The first judgments to apply the economic theory of multisided markets to the payment card industry have been recently adopted in the UK and in the US. This paper, available here, uses these cases to try to show that antitrust authorities should take into consideration the two-sided nature of the credit-card industry, and to explain how this can be done. Taking the multisided nature of payment systems into account is necessary to arrive at a realistic description of these markets, and to develop solid theories of harm and procompetitive justifications that can explain some business practices involving credit cards. It is structured as follows: Section II briefly describes the main economic features of multisided business models. Different authors have defined multisided markets differently, as they looked at different markets and business models. Nonetheless, the following generic traits tend to characterise all such markets: the presence of indirect network externalities that cannot be internalised through a bilateral exchange (usage and membership…