Alessandro Acquisti, Curtis Taylor, and Liad Wagman ‘The Economics of Privacy’ (2016) Journal of Economic Literature 54(2) 442

This article – which can be found here – summarises theoretical and empirical research on the economics of privacy. It focuses on the economic value and consequences of protecting and disclosing personal information, and on consumers’ understanding and decisions regarding the trade-offs associated with the privacy and the sharing of personal data. Their starting point is that the economics of privacy is a branch of information economics. Economists’ interest in privacy has primarily focused on its informational dimension: the trade-offs arising from protecting or sharing of personal data. At its core, the economics of privacy concerns the trade-offs associated with the balancing of public and private spheres between individuals, organizations, and governments. In this regard, the authors identify a number of important characteristics of privacy and personal information as economic goods: First, the value of keeping some personal information protected, and the value of it being known, are almost entirely context-dependent and contingent on essentially uncertain combinations of states of…

Ariel Ezrachi ‘The Ripple Effects of Online Marketplace Bans’ (2017) World Competition 40(1) 47

This paper – which you can find here – assesses the economic and legal implications of online marketplace bans in order to determine what treatment they should be subject to under competition law. The discussion opens in Chapter 2 with a review of different types of online marketplaces. Online marketplaces bring together large numbers of sellers and buyers, and in doing so facilitate dynamic competition, both in relation to greater inter-brand competition and in relation to intra-brand competition. Nonetheless, there are various types of such marketplaces, which could be distinguished on the basis of their particular characteristics. These include: (a) whether online marketplaces are pure or hybrid intermediaries (pure intermediaries are merely platforms for buyers and sellers, while hybrid intermediaries provide a sales platform but also act as retailers on their own platform); (b) open or closed marketplaces (any seller can gain access to an open marketplace, while closed marketplaces impose access restrictions); (iii) the type and quality of the interface on…

Lisa Khan ‘Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox’

This is a bold paper which argues that competition law, as it stands, is not an apt gauge of competition in the twenty-first century marketplace—especially in the case of online platforms. It was published in the Yale Law Review, and can be found here. The argument is built around a critique of the way antitrust has (failed to) deal with Amazon. In particular, it argues that a close look at Amazon’s business strategy reveals that the current framework of antitrust— especially how it equates competition with “consumer welfare”, and “consumer welfare”  with short-term effects on price and output—fails to capture the architecture of market power in the twenty-first century marketplace. The paper holds that, instead, antitrust should analyse the underlying structure and dynamics of markets. Rather than pegging competition to a narrow set of outcomes, this approach would examine the competitive process itself. Animating this framework is the idea that a company’s power, and the potential anticompetitive nature of that power,…

Thibault Schrepel ‘A New Structured Rule of Reason Approach For High-Tech Markets’

This paper attacks, the assumption that a number of practices in high tech markets should be presumed to be legal. It was published in the Suffolk University Law Review, and can be found here. It seeks to build on Easterbrook’s framework for designing efficient antitrust rules, and to develop a structured rule of reason framework that could apply to the new economy.  It does this by: (i)  distinguishing between per se rules and rule of reason standards; (ii)  reviewing the arguments for and against the adoption of per se rules, in order to explain why per se rules are not appropriate for high tech markets; (iii) lastly, developing an approach that replaces per se rules with an “administrable” structured rule of reason applicable in innovation and high tech markets whenever “the practice has not proven to be pro-competitive in every case”. The paper provides a decent overview of the discussion about rules and standards in antitrust. Further, it makes one…

David Evans ‘THE EMERGING HIGH-COURT JURISPRUDENCE ON THE ANTITRUST ANALYSIS OF MULTISIDED PLATFORMS’

This paper – available here – reviews various court decisions adopted between September 2014 and 2016 that apply competition law to matters involving multisided markets. The paper is short, and the structure is quite simple: after summarizing the key differences between multisided markets (the author insists in calling them matchmakers) and traditional businesses, it reviews the aforementioned court decisions. The article is quite short, and provides a succinct overview of these cases and their implications for antitrust analysis of matters involving multisided platforms. These include three decisions regarding payment cards, including the US Court of Appeals decision on American Express  and the European Court’s decisions in Groupement des Cartes Bancaires and MasterCard; the GoogleMaps decision by the Cour d’Appel de Paris; and the Telcent decision by China’s Supreme People’s Court. The conclusion is that all these decisions recognize that platforms serve multiple interdependent groups of customers, and that the interactions between these groups matter for the substantive analysis of antitrust…

Lisa Khan ‘The New Brandeis Movement: America’s Antimonopoly Debate’

This paper is a full-blown defence of the New Brandeis movement by one of its most visible proponents. It is to be published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice and can be found here: https://academic.oup.com/jeclap/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jeclap/lpy020/4915966 The paper begins by mapping out the emergence of the New Brandeis (or anti-monopoly) movement as a reaction to growing concentration in the American economy. The movement takes its name from Louis Brandeis, who served on the US Supreme Court between 1916 and 1939 and was a strong proponent of America’s Madisonian traditions—which aim at a democratic distribution of power and opportunity in the political economy. The movement is anchored in the following pillars: There are no such things as market ‘forces’. The Chicago School assumes that market structures emerge in large part through ‘natural forces.’ The New Brandeisians, by contrast, believe the political economy is structured through law and policy. The goal of antimonopoly laws is to ensure that citizens are…

Ajinkya M. Tulpule ‘Compliance And Enforcement in a Blockchain(ed) World’

This paper,  by a senior staff member of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, is the first attempt I know of to address the implications of the blockchain for competition law. It can be found here: https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/compliance-and-enforcement-in-a-blockchained-world/ The paper first defines key terms to ensure that the reader understands the main concepts related to the blockchain, which are obscure to the uninitiated – concepts such as “distributed ledger”, ‘smart contract”, and, let’s be honest, “blockchain”. A second section then lists the potential benefits of blockchain technologies in the enforcement of competition law. According to the author, the most pertinent utility of a blockchain in competition enforcement is likely to be related to obtaining and processing large volumes of transactional and non-transactional data – which can be relevant for merger control, cartel investigations and, at a minimum, for monitoring commitments in abuse of dominance matters. The third and last section is devoted to the potential of the blockchain for the implementation of competition…

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…

Julie Cohen ‘The Regulatory State in the Information Age’

This paper, published in Theoretical Inquiries in Law, and available at eial.tau.ac.il/index.php/til/article/download/1425/1501, is only for the more academically minded and those who are interested in deep theory of regulation and competition law.  It focuses on the challenges that the information society poses to traditional modes of regulation, and provides food for thought and a potential starting point to try to think about challenges to competition law / economic regulation in a wider context. This is despite the repeated use of academic jargon and expressions such as “neoliberal” to mean “unfortunate ideas/developments”. Thus, mariner beware: here be dragons. The arguments made in this paper(which I do not necessarily share) include, among others: (i) that concepts used in classic regulatory schemes (such as market definition and market power for antitrust) were developed for different economic structures and are not very well suited to the information age, which is prone to oligopolistic/undefined markets and platforms markets/infrastructures that are interdependent, create strong path-dependencies and exert…

Steve Salop and Jonathan Baker ‘Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Inequality’

Originally circulated on 4 December 2016 This article, published in the Georgetown Law Review, is one of the first ones I am aware of on how public concerns about inequality may affect antitrust enforcement and competition policy. It argues that, among a number of other (arguably more important) factors, market power and increased concentration have led to increasing inequality. Technological change has created more markets with intellectual property protection or network effects, which allow firms to achieve market power. The adoption of more permissive antitrust rules during the past quarter-century has also likely increased the prevalence of market power. Since the returns of market power accrue to capital, which belongs to a minority of the population –usually the richest segment –, this increases the surplus of producers and, with it, inequality. The article provides a flavour of the times – and includes a useful review of the literature on competition and inequality, and of possible initiatives that agencies/legislators may adopt…