Justus Haucap, Alexander Rasch and Joel Stiebale on ‘How mergers affect innovation: Theory and evidence’ (2019) International Journal of Industrial Organization 63 283

This article, available here, argues that a complete analysis of potential efficiencies from mergers should not only analyse how the merged entity’s prices, quantities and innovation incentives change (i.e., the direct effects of a merger), but also how these change for rival firms (indirect effects). While competition authorities sometimes analyse how mergers directly affect the merged firm’s innovation incentives, especially in high-tech industries, impacts on rivals’ innovation incentives have been rarely mentioned in merger guidelines or competition cases. This is unfortunate, since the effects of mergers on innovation in the relevant market depend on the reactions of non-merging competitors. While there is a growing literature on the effects of mergers on the innovation of the merging firms, evidence on the effects of mergers on outsiders’ innovation incentives is scarce. Thus, this paper studies how horizontal mergers affect the innovation efforts of both the merged entity and its non-merging competitors. Using data on horizontal mergers among pharmaceutical firms in Europe, it…

Friso Bostoen ‘Online Platforms and Pricing: Adapting abuse of dominance assessments to the economic reality of free products’ (2019) Computer Law and Security Review 35 263

What sets platforms apart is their possibility to effectively cross-subsidise between the different user groups that are party to a transaction. Platforms often treat one side as a profit centre and the other as a loss leader, or, at best, as financially neutral. As a result, platforms must choose not only a price level, but also a price structure for their service. Given this,  the present article, available here, explores how potentially abusive behaviour involving free products (both goods and services) can be assessed under competition law. Section II looks at different dimensions of offering free goods and services. Free online offerings have become ubiquitous. This reflects lower costs brought about by the existing digital infrastructure (e.g. processing power, bandwidth, storage). However, companies still want to make a profit. In practice, offering services for free has the potential to attract the critical mass of customers that will allow a company to maximise its profits across its various products. There are three…

Ariel Ezrachi and Viktoria Robertson ‘Competition, Market Power and Third-Party Tracking’ (2019) World Competition 42(1) 5

Trackers on our websites and apps enable multi-sourced data gathering. While numerous operators engage in tracking, a small number of data giants controls the majority of these trackers. This article, available here, considers the rise and growth of this industry, the power it has bestowed on a handful of platforms, and the possible implications for consumer welfare and competition. Section 2 describes the pervasiveness of third-party tracking. Third-party tracking is a mechanism through which a company (the third-party tracker) hooks onto another (first-party) website or application and collects identifiable data about users, enabling the tracker to build a comprehensive profile about these users. Tracking may occur both actively and passively. It may offer generic information on usage and webpage visits, or combined and analysed information which enables the identification of the individual. The gathering of personalised data – through third-party tracking or otherwise – is primarily relied upon for four purposes in the digital realm: to provide data-based (i.e. individualized or targeted)…

Reuben Binns and Elettra Bietti ‘Acquisitions in the Third-Party Tracking Industry’

This working paper, which can be found here , draws attention to one particularly complicated kind of digital data intensive industry: third party tracking, in which a firm does not (only or primarily) collect and process personal data of its own customers or users, but focuses instead on collecting data of users of other ‘first party’ services. The authors focus on mergers and acquisitions of third-party tracking firms because they raise some unique challenges which are often missed in regulatory decisions and academic discussions of data and market concentration. The paper is structured as follows: Section 1 contains a brief overview of the technical elements of third party tracking and of the business practices associated with it. This description is somewhat long because it provides a good overview of these business practices; you may want to skip it if you are familiar with them. ‘Tracking’ refers to a range of data collection and processing practices which aim to collate the behaviours…

Rachel Brandenburger, Logan Breed and Falk Schöning ‘The Role of Innovation in Merger Control’ (2016) CPI July (1)

This paper argues that role of innovation in merger control is a hot topic because “recent statements and enforcement actions on both sides of the Atlantic reflect the agencies’ growing emphasis on innovation in their merger investigations and decisions”. The paper provides an overview of these developments. The paper begins by providing an overview of the context in which this increased focus on innovation is taking place. First, because technological development is now fundamental to business success in so many industries, assessing the impact of mergers on innovation now plays a key role in merger control. Second, innovation is at the heart of wider policies, such as the “Europe 2020 strategy” and the US’ “Strategy for American Innovation”. The paper then moves to the more interesting topic of how innovation has been taken into account in practice by enforcement agencies. In Europe, the European Commission has focused on the effects of a merger on innovation in a number of decisions…

Raphael De Conink ‘Innovation in EU Merger Control’ (2016) Competition Law & Policy Debate 2(3) 41

This paper – which can be found here – argues that these a consistent framework for taking account innovation is necessary in EU merger control. The article is structured as follows: Section 1 refers to recent Commission decisions addressing the impact of mergers on innovation. In particular, the Commission has been more interventionist in recent pharmaceutical mergers, such as in Novartis/GSK Oncology and in Pfizer/Hospira, and requested divestments of pipeline products – including, in some cases, products at an early stage of development. The Commission has also stressed the need to protect innovation as a rationale for divestment in other technology-driven industries, most recently and prominently in the context of the GE/Alstom. Section 2 summarises some of the economic evidence and debate on this topic. We are treated to a review of the literature on competition and innovation. There is a wealth of empirical analysis addressing the potential effects of competition on innovation. While the insights of such research do…

Reinhilde Veugelers ‘Innovation in EU merger control: Walking the talk’ Bruegel Policy Contribution 2012/04, February 2012

This relatively old paper – which can be found here – argues that the Commission makes all the right sounds on innovation, but it is not putting its “talk” into practice. Few cases have been actually examined for their innovation effects, and even in these few cases innovation effects have not been decisive for the ultimate competition assessments. In particular, verifiability seems to be a major constraint for DG COMP, preventing it from fully incorporating innovation effects into its analyses. The paper begins with a review of how the Commission took innovation claims into account in merger control assessments up until 2012. This section concludes that, while the Commission can take efficiencies into account as part of its substantive analysis of the consequences of a merger – usually to counterbalance perceived anti-competitive effects –, the evidence is that the Commission has made little use of this option. On the basis of the limited sample of cases where efficiencies were explicitly…

Nicolas Petit ‘Significant Impediment to Industry Innovation: A Novel Theory of Harm in EU Merger Control?’ ICLE Antitrust & Consumer Protection Research Program White Paper 2017-1

This paper – which can be found here – discusses a novel theory of harm applicable in EU merger control (Nicolas Petit ‘Significant Impediment to Industry Innovation: A Novel Theory of Harm in EU Merger Control?’). Under this theory, the Commission can intervene in mergers that reduce innovation incentives in an industry as a whole. The author considers that this theory focuses on identifying on Significant Impediment to Industry Innovation (“SIII”). This paper first attempts to describe the content and extent of the SIII theory. Second, it attempts to show that the SIII theory is a marked departure from established EU merger control practice. Third, it discusses the economic foundations of the SIII theory. Finally, it puts forward best practices for the assessment of mergers in R&D intensive industries. We will now look at each in turn. SIII theory provides that a merger can and should be prohibited where it can be demonstrated that it will “lead to a reduction of innovation” in a…