Luis Ortiz Blanco and Jose Luis Azofra Parrondo ‘The Intel Case: Issues of Economic Analysis, Comity and Procedural Fairness’

According to the authors of this short pirce – which can be found here – the Intel judgment addresses three main issues: (i) the role that economic analysis – and the as-efficient-competitor test – should play in the context of abuses of dominant position in general, and loyalty rebates in particular; (ii) the jurisdiction of the European Commission and international comity; and (iii) procedural fairness and the rights of the defence. Looking at each in turn: The As-Efficient-Competitor (AEC) Test – This part of the paper describes the facts of the case and outlines the Court’s reasoning. For the authors, the main doubt concerning this judgment is: ‘whether the Court has willingly or unwillingly opened the door to an obligation to drive thorough economic analysis in all abuse-related cases without exception’. The Commission decided – and the General Court agreed – that Intel’s rebates were by their very nature capable of restricting competition. This was based on the EU Courts’…

Kevin Coates  ‘The Intel CJ Ruling: More Than a Nudge towards Economic Analysis’

Even though this (very short) reaction piece – which can be found here – focuses mainly on the procedural part of the judgment, it also comments on more substantive matters. As regards extraterritoriality, he notes that AG Wahl had argued that it should be unlawful to bring together conduct which could have had no effect in the EU (e.g. a contract between Intel and an OEM in Asia, with products destined for Asia), with conduct that could have EU effects (e.g. a contract with products destined for the EU). The Court disagreed: the “conduct … viewed as a whole” should be taken into consideration to avoid “an artificial fragmentation of comprehensive anticompetitive conduct”. As regards the treatment of exclusive rebates, he argues that we have learned less than many had hoped. On the one hand, the CJEU seems to be making a procedural point: if the Commission relied on economic evidence, then the General Court should examine it. But other…

When is Price Discrimination Anticompetitive? Case C-525/16 MEO v Portuguese Authority ECLI:EU:C:2018:2700

This post reviews the recent MEO decision of the CJEU (Case C-525/16 MEO v Portuguese Authority ECLI:EU:C:2018:2700, available at http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=201264&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=826760). You will excuse me for the length of the analysis below, but I do believe this is an important discussion that merits attention. Facts of the Case GDA is the sole body responsible for the collective management of the rights of artists and performers in Portugal. Among the undertakings which pay rights to GDA are television channels such as MEO. Between 2010 and 2013, GDA charged different tariffs to different television channels. The tariffs charged by GDA to MEO were the result of an arbitration decision, which was the required mechanism to deal with failures to arrive at an agreement when rights are negotiated. In 2014, MEO lodged a complaint with the Portuguese national competition authority (NCA) alleging that GDA had abused its dominant position by: (i) charging excessive prices; (ii) applying to MEO different terms and conditions from those which it…

Christopher Townley, Eric Morrison and Professor Karen Yeung ‘Big Data and Personalised Price Discrimination in EU Competition Law (2017) Yearbook of European Law 36 683

This paper – which can be found here – seeks to determine whether ‘algorithmic consumer price discrimination’ can amount to an abuse of a dominant position. It is structured as follows: Section 2 explains how ‘big data’ allows for greater personalisation of prices, and how recourse to digital algorithms facilitates personalised pricing. The paper seeks to identify whether ‘algorithmic consumer price discrimination’ enhances or diminishes economic efficiency. To do so, the paper reviews, in detail, the main economic theories on price discrimination, which have already been summarised when describing the paper reviewed in the post below. The authors observe that price discrimination can have rent-transfer effects (from consumers to producers), allocation effects (reflecting consumers’ willingness to acquire the product) and output effects (by pricing some consumers into the markets and/or out of the market). Which of these effects predominates in imperfectly competitive markets is a very hard question. Ultimately, the effects of price discrimination will have to be assessed on a…

Inge Graef  ‘Algorithms and fairness: what role for competition law in targeting price discrimination towards end consumers?’

This paper – which can be found here –  tries to identify when algorithmic price discrimination will be anticompetitive. Price discrimination is not per se unlawful or anticompetitive; on the contrary, price discrimination  may be efficient and lead to increased output. However, personalised pricing is commonly felt to be unfair – and it is undisputed (in Europe, at least) that some forms of price discrimination can be anticompetitive. This paper seeks to distinguish between those situations when algorithmic price discrimination is anticompetitive and those in which it is not. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 looks at how price discrimination can harm competition. Two types of harm are identified: (i) primary line injury occurs where the supplier’s conduct discriminates against competitors in markets in which the supplier also operates; and (ii) secondary line injury takes place when a supplier discriminates between a number of its customers as against one another. While behaviour giving rise to primary line injury…

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…

Asda Stores Ld & Ors v MasterCard 2017 EWHC 93 (Comm)

This decision – available here – concerns a standalone claim for damages against MasterCard brought before the English courts. As some of you will know, disputes over the legality of Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) and various payment card-schemes has been ongoing for well over a decade.  In the US, it included a decision on the legality of the American Express System which has found its way to the Supreme Court docket. In this case, which follows a decision by the European Commission – but is not a follow on claim since the practices in question, while similar, are not the same ones that were subject to the Commission’s decision – the English courts had to decide whether the level at which MasterCard set its MIFs was illegal, and hence whether damages are due. You may be pleased to hear that the decision is long and complicated – if nothing else, because it conducts an in-depth effects based assessment that hinges…

Massimo Motta and Chiara Fumagalli ‘On the use of price-cost tests in loyalty discounts and exclusive dealing arrangements: Which implications from economic theory should be drawn?;

You can find this paper in (2017) Antitrust Law Journal, 81(2): 537–85. The paper looks at  loyalty rebates and the use of price cost tests. It begins by describing recent European and American case law on the matter, and highlights differences in the judicial approaches on both sides of the Atlantic (i.e. the classic distinction between European formalism and American effects-based tests). The authors then distinguish between economic tests of predation and exclusionary rebates, while noting that both include common economic mechanisms that can involve sacrificing profits.In the last and most important section, they argue that rebates and contracts containing conditions regarding how much buyers purchase from rival suppliers can raise serious anti-competitive concerns. From this point of view, a stricter treatment of exclusive contracts and some loyalty discounts might be justified – which may imply that evidence of above-cost prices may work as a safe harbour for predation, but not for exclusive dealing and loyalty rebates. Overall, I think…

Elisabeth de Ghellinck ‘The As-Efficient-Competitor Test

This paper, published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice and available at https://academic.oup.com/jeclap/article-abstract/7/8/544/2194480, looks at the as efficient competitor test (known as AEC by its acquaintances) – the economic test that refuses to come to life (and God knows that some have tried to breathe life into it). After the European Commission tried to make this test the cornerstone of its enforcement activities on abusive practices (in its Guidance on Enforcement Priorities for Exclusionary Practices), and the European Courts first dismissed the relevance of the test in virtually all scenarios (Post Danmark II) before saying that it may actually be useful under certain circumstances (Intel), we have this piece is by an economist trying to identify when the test can be useful. A number of conclusions are reached, in particular:  it is sensible to decide that an AEC test is not a prerequisite for establishing the abusive character of a retroactive rebate scheme, since such a test can only…

Frederic Jenny ‘Abuse of dominance by firms charging excessive or unfair prices: an assessment’

This is a paper by Fred Jenny  for the Israeli competition authority on excessive pricing – the competition law infraction that refuses to die, and is arguably making a comeback. The paper can be found at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2880382. It reviews the debate that has taken place among economists on what the definition of excessive prices could be and whether the control of excessive prices by competition authorities would in fact promote or discourage competition. The paper is structured as follows: Section I takes stock of the enforcement activities of competition authorities against high prices (or the lack of enforcement) in a number of countries; Section II analyses the general arguments in favour or against the enforcement of provisions sanctioning excessive pricing abuses by dominant companies or monopolies; Section III examines the risks associated with wrongful decisions by competition authorities in this area and the cost of such errors; Section IV analyses the economic screens which have been proposed by various economists to…