Elisabeth de Ghellinck ‘The As-Efficient-Competitor Test

This paper, published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice and available at https://academic.oup.com/jeclap/article-abstract/7/8/544/2194480, looks at the as efficient competitor test (known as AEC by its acquaintances) – the economic test that refuses to come to life (and God knows that some have tried to breathe life into it). After the European Commission tried to make this test the cornerstone of its enforcement activities on abusive practices (in its Guidance on Enforcement Priorities for Exclusionary Practices), and the European Courts first dismissed the relevance of the test in virtually all scenarios (Post Danmark II) before saying that it may actually be useful under certain circumstances (Intel), we have this piece is by an economist trying to identify when the test can be useful. A number of conclusions are reached, in particular:  it is sensible to decide that an AEC test is not a prerequisite for establishing the abusive character of a retroactive rebate scheme, since such a test can only…

Frederic Jenny ‘Abuse of dominance by firms charging excessive or unfair prices: an assessment’

This is a paper by Fred Jenny  for the Israeli competition authority on excessive pricing – the competition law infraction that refuses to die, and is arguably making a comeback. The paper can be found at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2880382. It reviews the debate that has taken place among economists on what the definition of excessive prices could be and whether the control of excessive prices by competition authorities would in fact promote or discourage competition. The paper is structured as follows: Section I takes stock of the enforcement activities of competition authorities against high prices (or the lack of enforcement) in a number of countries; Section II analyses the general arguments in favour or against the enforcement of provisions sanctioning excessive pricing abuses by dominant companies or monopolies; Section III examines the risks associated with wrongful decisions by competition authorities in this area and the cost of such errors; Section IV analyses the economic screens which have been proposed by various economists to…

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…

Damien Geradin and Emilio Villano ‘Arbitrability of EU Competition law-based claims’

First circulated on 28 October 2016   This paper provides an interesting overview (if for lawyers only) of the arbitrability of EU competition law. It was published in World Competition, and can be found at https://www.kluwerlawonline.com/abstract.php?id=WOCO2017004. Very pro-arbitration, as is usual among those who write about it (usually because people who write about arbitration are engaged in arbitration as party representatives or arbitrators). Comprehensive, and of undoubted value to anyone interested or involved in this area.

Wouter Wils ‘The Use of Leniency in EU Cartel Enforcement: An Assessment After Twenty Years’

This paper by Wouter Wils – available at https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-1-2017/articles/the-use-of-leniency-in-eu-cartel-enforcement-an-assessment-after-twenty-years – describes  20 years of leniency in Europe. In addition to some interesting statistics, it contains an overview of arguments for and against the use of leniency. It is useful for anyone doing bid-rigging / promoting the virtues of competition, but putting at risk the job of thousands of trainee lawyers who will no longer have a job searching for examples of the practical application of  leniency by the European Commission.

Joseph Drexl ‘The Transplantability of the EU’s Competition Law Framework into the ASEAN Region’

This paper by Josef Drexl – a chapter on a book on the ‘The Regionalisation of Competition Law and Policy within the ASEAN Economic Community – focuses on the transplantability of competition law systems across regions(in this case, from the EU to ASEAN). Basic argument: some elements of a competition system are transplantable, others are not. A full, successful transplant from the EU to ASEAN must take into consideration the goals of ASEAN competition law, the degree and potential of economic integration of the national economies, the level of economic development of these economies, the development of a competition culture in these countries, the comparative advantages of centralised and decentralised enforcement, and the willingness of ASEAN countries to surrender sovereignty in the field of competition law. In short, transplants depend on socio-economic conditions. I think we can all agree with this article of faith in spirit, even if I’m doubtful that anyone is very good at embracing it in practice –…

William E. Kovacic and David A. Hyman ‘Regulatory Leveraging: Problem or Solution?’

This is a paper – published in the George Mason Law Review and available at http://www.georgemasonlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/Kovacic-and-Hyman_ReadyforJCI.pdf – by Bill Kovacic and David Hyman on the desirability of competition agencies having regulatory competences in addition to those related to antitrust, and on how the spill-over between these various areas of competence may work. The paper provides a theoretical framework (the first of its kind, as far as I’m aware) for the various types of leveraging of competition and other regulatory concerns in practice, both inter- and intra-agencies . It also includes examples of the various types of spill-over that may occur, mainly by reference to FTC work but also including some European authorities; and a cost-benefit analysis of the various types of spill-over (bottom line: “it depends, but regulatory spill-over should mainly be avoided”). Good stuff, potentially useful.