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…

Michal S. Gal and Niva Elkin-Koren ‘Algorithmic Consumers’

This paper, published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology and available at https://jolt.law.harvard.edu/assets/articlePDFs/v30/30HarvJLTech309.pdf, focuses on the use of algorithms by consumers to orient and even take decisions regarding their purchases. The basic argument is that, with the Internet of Things, systems will move from merely making recommendations to making and executing decisions for the consumer by directly communicating with other systems through the internet. As rightly pointed out in the article, this is not unheard of: in some industries, such as stock trading, algorithms already automatically translate their results into buying decisions; there is even a washing machine that makes autonomous orders and payments (e.g., buying detergent) and updates the owner via a smartphone. The paper usefully contains a literature review on algorithmic competition (which, it must be said, is still rather limited). It also makes some valuable points, such as: algorithmic consumers may submit suppliers to increased competitive pressures and change the parameters of competition (since they will be able…