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…

Paul Bates ‘Network effects, antitrust, and falsifiability’ (2017) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 5(3) 341

This  (short) piece – that can be found here – makes a rather straightforward argument: as competition law confronts new business models enabled by new technologies, it is important to advance theories of harm that are scientific – in the Popperian sense that they must be drawn in such a way as to allow one to demonstrate that the theory might be wrong (or, as the technical jargon puts it, falsified). The paper begins with a description of network effects, before describing how quality is at the heart of a number of cases concerning digital platforms. network effects mean that increased concentration – and reduced competition – may improve the perceived quality of the product. This leads to a heretical question: ‘should we relax antitrust enforcement when network effects are strong? (…) as big data and network effects become more common in the economy, competition enforcement should become less aggressive so as to allow the benefits of network effects to…

Peder Østbye ‘The Adequacy of Competition Policy for Cryptocurrency’

This working paper – available here – discusses whether traditional competition policy instruments such as antitrust and regulation are adequate to address competition concerns in the cryptocurrency field. In short, the author finds that traditional competition policy instruments are inadequate. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the topic. It begins with a short description of how means of payment (i.e. money and the like) are created. It then explains how the current monetary and financial system creates risks of excessive production of money, leading to inflation and/or asset-bubbles, which can lead to a decline of trust in a system that is reliant on it to function. Various bank regulations and public policies – such as capital regulation and deposit insurance – and rescue policies – such as lender of last resort – have been introduced to increase trust in the system. The paper then moves to a description of cryptocurrencies, which have a fundamentally different nature from…

Peter Menell  ‘Economic Analysis of Network Effects and Intellectual Property’ in Ben Depoorter & Peter S. Menell (eds.), Research Handbook on the Economics of Intellectual Property Law: Vol I. Theory (2018)

This piece – which can be found here – is a rather long , but very comprehensive book chapter that surveys and integrates the economic, business strategy and legal literatures on IP, competition and network effects. It is structured as follows: Part I introduces network effects. I have done this to death in the past, so I’m not going to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that the author looks mainly at demand side network effects, and what its implications are for IP and competition policy: ‘In a static economic model (i.e., one without innovation), consumers benefit from robust competition within product standards. Open access to product standards encourages realization of network externalities. Although bandwagon effects can enhance consumer welfare in a static context, they can also make it more difficult for developers of improved platforms to enter the market. Consumers and suppliers of complementary products can face significant switching costs in migrating from one platform to another.’ Like…

Cento Veljanowski “Credit Cards, Counterfactuals, and Antitrust Damages” Journal of European Competition Law & Practice (2018) 9(3) 146–160

This paper – which can be found here – provides an overview of the UK MasterCard litigation. Mr. Veljanowski is likely very well placed to discuss this:  he was one of the two economic experts involved in a case recently decided by the CAT on the matter. He also seems to publish a paper about every court decision concerning the MasterCard litigation (see my post of 24 March 2017, regarding the Arcadia v MasterCard case). The paper begins with a quick overview of the MasterCard litigation. As a result of the European Commission’s MasterCard decision, there are currently about 25 separate standalone and follow-on retailer actions making their way through the English courts concerning MasterCard and Visa’s card systems’ interchange fees. The first decision in these cases was adopted by the CAT last year (Sainsbury v MasterCard). The second one was the Arcadia v MasterCard case I posted about on 10 February. There are also more recent decisions by the…

Niamh Dunne ‘Competition Law (and its Limits) in the Sharing Economy’ Forthcoming, Nestor Davidson, Michèle Finck and John Infranca (eds.), Cambridge Handbook on Law and Regulation of the Sharing Economy (Cambridge University Press)

As the title indicates: ‘This contribution (which can be found here) considers the potential application of competition law—specifically, the ‘antitrust’ rules governing anticompetitive unilateral or coordinated conduct—within the sharing economy.’ The sharing economy is described as a sector marked by recurrent characteristics, such as: (i) its underlying economic rationale is the under-utilisation of durable goods or other assets, which generates excess capacity that can be rented out; (ii) sharing economy businesses provide classic examples of ‘disruptive’ innovation, which originates outside a value network and displaces it; (iii) the innovations that underpin the sharing economy are rooted in the internet and mobile technologies; (iv) sharing economy businesses are often platforms in multi-sided markets; (v) sharing economy firms frequently conflict with regulatory regimes that control and limit the activities of competitors, resulting in recurrent critiques that such competition is inherently ‘unfair’. The paper is structured as follows: Section II examines how prohibitions against anticompetitive unilateral conduct may apply to the sharing economy. It begins…

Carl Shapiro ‘Antitrust in Times of Populism’

This paper – which can be found here – has been surrounded by a lot of publicity, and is a potentially important piece. It begins with an observation that goes to the heart of the debate:  ‘politicians are calling on antitrust to solve an array of problems associated with the excessive power of large corporations’. The author believes that ‘concerns about corporate power, and today’s renewed interest in antitrust, represent an opportunity to strengthen competition policy.’ At the same time, he alerts that the role of antitrust in promoting competition could well be undermined if antitrust is called upon or expected to address problems not directly relating to competition, such as the political power of corporations or income inequality. The ‘central purpose of this article is to assess the relevant economic evidence regarding competition (…) and then, based on that evidence and on antitrust learning and experience, identify ways to improve and strengthen antitrust.’ The paper is structured as follows:…

Kate Collyer, Hugh Mullan and Natalie Timan “Measuring Market Power in Multisided Markets’

This paper – a contribution to OECD work on how to deal with multisided market which can be found here –  seeks to provide pragmatic suggestions on how to measure market power in multi-sided markets. It is quite practical: it draws operational conclusions on how to adapt existing enforcement and merger assessment tools to address some of the challenges posed by multi-sided markets. The paper is structured as follows: The first section of the paper sets out some important features of multi-sided markets, including indirect network externalities, single-homing and multi-homing, price structures, and tipping. These have been discussed extensively in previous posts, so I’m not going to elaborate on them here. Suffice it to say that: ‘The standard results from one-sided markets do not apply directly to multi-sided markets and any assessment of market power needs to take this into account explicitly. Many of our standard tools for assessing market power are more complex to apply in multi-sided markets and…

David Evans and Richard Schmalensee ‘Network Effects: March to the Evidence, Not to the Slogans’ (2017) Antitrust Chronicle

The basic position of this paper – which can be found here – is that: ‘Competition authorities (…) with support from some dismal scientists, saw the dark side of network effects. Firms could rig the race to become the winner and thereby “tip” the market to make themselves monopolies. And even if a firm won fair and square, network effects would result in insurmountable barriers to entry and would be the font of permanent monopoly power. (…) A recent argument in this debate is that online platforms have troves of data that make network effects even more potent. Unfortunately, this view of network effects evolved from a seminal economic contribution to a set of slogans that don’t comport with the facts.” A first section looks at the economics of networks. This covers the origins of theoretical studies on this topic – which focused on telephone networks and fax machines, and standard-tipping (i.e. the VCR-BetaMax war). Theoretical refinements to the theory…

Angela Daly ‘Beyond Hipster Antitrust:  A Critical Perspective on the European Commission’s Google Decision’ (2017) European Competition and Regulation Law Review 1(3) 188

The argument of this article – which can be found here – is straightforward: “competition law as it stands is not well-equipped to address (all of) the problems a very large concentration of private power such as Google poses to Internet users. However, unlike the ‘antitrust hipsters’, it is argued that reform to competition law is insufficient – other areas of law and regulation may be more appropriately employed to ensure user autonomy in these circumstances.” The paper begins with an extremely cursory analysis of the Commission’s decision in the Google case. Since the decision is not yet published, the paper relies on comments from the Competition Commissioner that there was an abuse because Google: “promoted its own comparison shopping service in its generic search results, and demoted the results of its competitors, with the effect that competitors were ‘denied… the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate’ and European consumers were ‘denied… a genuine choice of services…