Gönenç Gürkaynak, Ali Kağan Uҫar and Zeynep Buharali ‘Data-Related Abuses in Competition Law’ in Standing Up for Convergence and Relevance in Antitrust – Frédéric Jenny Liber Amicorum – Volume I (eds. Ahmad and Charbit, 2019) Concurrences

Data has become an indispensable business tool, and, as a result, the collection and use of data by dominant undertakings can give rise to competition law concerns. This article, available here, examines data-related abuses in competition law, and seeks to provide an overview of specific types of abuses arising from the use of data. Section II looks at the definition of data. Data is often defined as “information that can be stored and used by a computer program.” Accordingly, “big data” refers to “large amounts of different types of data produced at high speed from multiple sources, requiring new and more powerful processors and algorithms to process and to analyse’. As “data” increases in volume, diversifies in nature and content, and keeps on flowing rapidly through the veins of the global economy, its collection and processing creates increasingly valuable commercial opportunities. Undertakings more and more see data as an indispensable tool for improving business decisions and strategies, and for improving…

Björn Lundqvist ‘Regulating competition in the digital economy’ in Competition Law for the Digital Economy (ed. Björn Lundqvist and Michal S. Gal) (2019, Elgar)

There is an intense academic discussion regarding whether consumers and business users are exposed to conduct that may amount to competition law abuses when using Internet services. The discussion is connected to the Internet phenomenon of ‘platforms’ or intermediaries. The multitude of direct customer–supplier transactions making up everyday business conduct are, to an increasing degree, replaced on the Internet by an intermediary, the platform, matching the customer with the supplier. Platforms are able to perform role because they provide efficient and easy matching. Further, internet platforms may, due to certain special and somewhat unique characteristics – like network effects, tipping and path dependency – become central ‘hubs’ between purchasers and suppliers. This chapter, available here, focuses on the application of competition law vis-à-vis the platforms collecting personal and non-personal data. It considers questions such as: may competition law be used to gain access to intermediaries’ data, and the infrastructure around that data? May competition law be used to limit the…

Klaus Wiedemann ‘A Matter of Choice: The German Federal Supreme Court’s Interim Decision in the Abuse-of-Dominance Proceedings Bundeskartellamt v. Facebook (Case KVR 69/19)’ (2020) IIC – International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law volume 51 1168

In June 2020, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) upheld the 2019 interim decision of the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) ordering Facebook to stop collecting data about its users without their consent when they use apps and visit websites outside Facebook’s social network.Importantly, the Federal Supreme Court confirmed that Facebook’s data collection was an abuse of its dominance in the (German) market for personal social networks, overruling an earlier decision of the Düsseldorf Court of Appeal (Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf). This piece, available here, explores the relevance of the case – and the courts’ different decisions – from a number of perspectives. Section II describes the Facebook case, up to the Supreme Federal Court’s judgment. In February 2019, the Bundeskartellamt found that Facebook was dominant on the market for social networks, and had abused this position by imposing terms of service allowing it: (i) to collect its users’ personal data (and data related to their terminal devices) from outside the actual social…

Rachel Scheele ‘Facebook: From Data Privacy to a Concept of Abuse by Restriction of Choice’ (2021) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 12(1) 34

On 23 June 2020, the German Federal Supreme Court found that Facebook violated German competition law by abusing its dominance in the market for social networks. The ruling, upholding the decision by the competition authority, is a major victory for advocates of addressing data-related competition concerns under Article 102 TFEU and its national equivalents. However, instead of focusing on the intersection between competition and data protection law in its reasoning, as the competition authority had, the Federal Supreme Court relied on the concept of restriction of consumer choice. This article, available here, casts light on the Facebook case and its practical relevance. Section 2 reviews the Facebook infringement decision. In 2019, the German Bundeskartellamt found that Facebook had abused its dominant position on the German market for personal social networks by imposing unfair terms and conditions on its users. The Bundeskartellamt’s case linked antitrust violations with data protection law, and relied on alleged infringements of the EU’s General Data Protection…

Stefan Thomas ‘Harmful Signals: Cartel Prohibition and Oligopoly Theory in the Age of Machine Learning’ (2019) Journal of Competition Law & Economics 15 (2-3) 159

Information can be used by competitors to collude or to compete, and the challenge for competition law is to spot the differences. Signalling and any other type of informational exchange outside the scope of cartels are an emanation of tacit collusion. Tacit collusion, however, is generally considered unobjectionable, because firms are deemed to have the right to adapt intelligently to their rivals’ conduct. The law puts different labels on what is ultimately the same economic phenomenon, that is, conduct that leads to supra-competitive outcomes. The traditional legal approach for distinguishing between illicit collusion and legitimate oligopoly conduct is to rely on criteria that relate to the means and form of how rivals interact, such as elements of “practical cooperation” or findings of anticompetitive intent. This article, available here, contends that, outside the scope of classic cartel agreements, it is not possible to properly distinguish between illicit collusion and legitimate independent conduct by relying on proxies such as elements of practical…

Mark Glick, Catherine Ruetschlin and Darren Bush ‘Big Tech’s Buying Spree and The Failed Ideology Of Competition Law’ (forthcoming, Hastings Law Journal)

Big Tech is on a buying spree. Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are gobbling up smaller companies at an unprecedented pace. Google has acquired 270 companies since 2001, including Android, YouTube, and Waze. Microsoft has made over 100 acquisitions in the last ten years, including acquisitions of Skype, Nokia Devices, LinkedIn and GitHub. Amazon has made a similar number of acquisitions. Facebook has acquired ninety companies. The law of competition is not ready for Big Tech’s endless appetite. This article, available here, shows how the extraordinary burden of proof required to prohibit a merger under the potential competition doctrine hobbles antitrust law and policy. It illustrates this problem with a close study of Facebook. The article assembles a database of Facebook’s completed acquisitions—ninety in all—and shows how the “potential competition” doctrine renders competition law entirely impotent to protect the consumer interest in this space. It further argues that, with à simple structural presumption, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)…

John Kwoka and Tommaso Valletti ‘Scrambled Eggs and Paralyzed Policy: Breaking Up Consummated Mergers and Dominant Firms’

Competition policy has been no obstacle to the rise of dominant firms in e-commerce, social media, online search and other important aspects of the modern digital economy. The well-documented results of these trends are increasing market concentration, entrenched dominance, diminished competition and entry, and harm to consumers and businesses alike. Competition agencies, policymakers, academics, interest groups, and others have proposed various ways of addressing the weaknesses of past policy. Most of these proposed policies involve more vigorous application of conventional tools, which, however, are unable to address current levels of market concentration. However, the most obvious solution – breaking up such firms — is generally dismissed as impractical, the equivalent of trying to unscramble eggs. The authors disagree in this paper, available here. The rationale for breaking up companies is straightforward: where the essential competitive problem with a company is its structure, in the sense that its anticompetitive behaviour flows inexorably from that structure and is otherwise difficult to prevent,…

Mark A. Lemley and Andrew McCreary on ‘Exit Strategy’ 101 B.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming, 2021)

The venture capital funding model that dominates the tech industry is focused on the “exit strategy”— the ways funders and founders can cash out their investment. While in common lore the exit strategy is an initial public offering (IPO), in practice IPOs are increasingly rare – they now account for fewer than 1 in 10 exits for start-ups, and happen later in a company’s life than they used to. Instead, most companies that succeed exit the market by merging with an existing firm. Innovative start-ups are especially likely to be acquired by the dominant firm in the market, particularly when they are venture funded, for a variety of reasons – because the dominant firms value the target’s technology, because they have lots and lots of money, or to eliminate a potential competitor who might leapfrog them in Schumpeterian competition. This paper argues that this focus on exit, particularly exit by acquisition, is pathological and one of the main reasons for…

Andre Minuto Rizzo ‘Digital Mergers: Evidence from the Venture Capital Industry Suggests That Antitrust Intervention Might Be Needed’ (2020) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice

There is a growing debate around the possible existence of a kill zone around tech titans. This is an area where venture capitalists will not finance start-ups because of fear of both exclusionary conduct and aggressive acquisition strategies by technology incumbents. This paper, available here, draws upon existing literature and antitrust agencies’ work, as well as data from the venture capital industry, to argue for the need to investigate the existence and magnitude of the kill zone, as well as its possible causes. Section II looks at evidence from the venture capital industry. Venture capital consists of equity investments in companies with innovative ideas characterised by both high growth potential and high risk of failure. Venture capitalists invest across different stages of the life cycle of start-up companies. Recent years have seen larger and later-stage deals, with funds being funnelled to fewer companies, many of which are large enough to be valued at over USD 1 billion, together with a…

Axel Gautier and Joe Lamesch ‘Mergers in the Digital Economy’ (2020) Information Economics and Policy

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft (GAFAM) make huge investments in research and development, with a cumulated investment of over USD 71 billion in 2017. In addition to these important investments, GAFAM have engaged in extensive mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. Between 2015–2017, GAFAM acquired 175 companies, most of which seem to be young and innovative start-ups. Despite their intense merger activities and the vivid debates they generate, little is known about the the GAFAM’s merger strategies. With the exception of a report reviewing the CMA’s decision-making, there is no systematic analysis of the merger activity of the main digital platforms. This paper, available here, provides detailed information and statistics on the merger activity of GAFAM, and on the characteristics of the firms they acquire. Section 2 present the digital platforms’ business model. The authors identify the segments in which each GAFAM firm operates, i.e. the main categories of users they serve and the main revenue sources of each firm,…