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…