Alexandre de Streel and Pierre Larrouche on ‘The integration of wide and narrow market investigations in EU economic law’ in Motta, Peitz, Schweitzer (eds) Market Investigations: A New Competition Tool for Europe? (Cambridge University Press, 2021) Chapter 4

In 2020, the European Commission embarked on a major reflection and consultation exercise aimed at adapting EU economic law to contemporary challenges, in particular to the competition issues raised by the deployment of digital technologies. One option that was considered was the adoption of a New Competition Tool to deal with structural competition problems which could not be addressed adequately by existing instruments. Two main models were considered: a wide version, applicable to all sectors of the economy, similar to market studies; and a narrow version applicable to the digital sector (or platforms) only. In December 2020, the Commission opted for the narrow version in its proposal for a Digital Markets Act (DMA), a sector-specific instrument applicable to “gatekeepers” of “core platform services”, which includes three types of what is termed “market investigation”. This chapter analyses how to integrate both types of market studies/investigations within EU economic law. Section II deals with the characteristics of competition law and sectoral regulation…

Heike Schweitzer on ‘The Art to Make Gatekeeper Positions Contestable and the Challenge to Know What is Fair: A Discussion of the Digital Markets Act Proposal’ (Forthcoming, ZEuP, 2021, Issue 3)

Legislators around the world are currently struggling to adequately respond to the new risks that accompany innovative platform-based and data-driven business models. These risks include many problems of economic power – the traditional subject of competition law. However, according to a widely shared perception, a case-by-case enforcement of competition rules will not suffice. This triggered a number of studies, leading ultimately to the adoption of a number of legislative proposals. These include the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) proposal to regulate digital gatekeepers; Germany’s reform of its competition law to endow the Bundeskartellamt with the competence to impose special rules of conduct on undertakings which have been found to be of paramount cross-market significance; and the regulatory regime for digital platforms with strategic market status recently proposed by the UK Digital Markets Taskforce. On the surface, much of the debate appears to be about legislative technique. Just beneath the surface, fundamental conceptual questions lurk. The most prominent among these questions…

Simonetta Vezzoso ‘Competition Policy in Transition: Exploring Data Portability’s Roles’ (2021) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 12(5)

Several reform proposals circulated in the last two years recognise that data portability should play an increasingly important role in the digital economy. This paper, available here, explores data portability from an EU competition policy perspective. It points out that data portability can play three distinct roles, namely: (i) enabling switching, (ii) enabling data fluidity (iii) enhancing consumer empowerment and data sovereignty. These different roles are analysed against the background of (a) traditional competition law, (b) a market investigation regime, and (c) an ex-ante regulatory framework targeting large online platforms with gatekeeping power. Section II looks at the regulation of data portability, particularly non-personal data. Data can be either personal or non-personal. Personal data portability is a right under the GDPR. The data portability of non-personal data is foreseen by the EU Regulation on the Free Flow of Non-Personal Data in the European Union (Free Flow Regulation, or FFNPDR, in the following), which entered into force in May 2019. Besides…

Frederic Jenny ‘Changing the way we think: competition, platforms and ecosystems’ (2021) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 9 1

Firms are supposed to operate on predefined markets for goods or services where they compete against similar firms that offer substitutable products or services. All economic agents are assumed to be profit-maximisers that will not sell below average variable costs. However, this is not how the digital economy operates. As a result, many of the traditional tools used by competition authorities to assess relevant markets, or the intensity of competition between firms, are difficult to use or inadequate to assess competition issues between ecosystems in the digital world. Further economic thinking, and an understanding of the business models of digital ecosystems, are needed to allow competition authorities to make informed decisions about competition on digital markets. This article, available here, reviews some of the challenges competition agencies face. Section 2 looks at digital markets. Digital markets differ from traditional markets in a number of ways. The digital world has low costs and no-distance, which means that the delivery of services…

Mark Lemley ‘The Contradictions of Platform Regulation’ (2021)

Everyone wants to regulate the big tech companies. Efforts to rein in big tech represent a confluence of many different factors, but most of all reflect the outsized influence these companies have come to have on almost all aspects of our lives. However, the political consensus around regulating the tech industry is illusory. While everyone wants to regulate big tech, it turns out that they want to do so in very different, indeed contradictory, ways. This paper, available here, identifies some of the contradictions of platform regulation, their implications, and whether there is a way forward. Part I explores the contradictions of platform regulation proposals. Everyone may want to regulate big tech, but there is no agreement on what government should require big tech to do (or forbid big tech from doing). Some proposals are plainly contradictory. For example, there are widespread proposals to make internet platforms responsible for content posted on them – but while some want to encourage…

Magali Eben and Viktoria Robertson ‘The Relevant Market Concept in Competition Law and Its Application to Digital Markets: A Comparative Analysis of the EU, US, and Brazil’ (2021) Graz Law Working Paper No 01-2021

Market definition is a core analytical tool that helps in the assessment of anti-competitive agreements, unilateral conduct and mergers. However, the difficulty of delineating a relevant market with the required predictability in digital markets has led some to question whether market definition can continue to fulfil its traditional functions in these dynamic market environments. The present contribution, available here, first surveys the general approach to market delineation in the EU, the US and Brazil. Against this background, it then embarks on a discussion of market definition in digital markets in each of these jurisdictions, with a particular focus on multi-sided markets, zero-price services and the concept of digital ecosystems. Section 2 surveys the general approach to market delineation in the EU, US and Brazil. The main parameters of market definition are strikingly similar in the EU, the US and Brazil. All these competition laws heavily rely on the relevant market as an analytical tool. However, while market definition is mainly…

Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Digital Cluster Markets’ (2021)

Many antitrust violations require proof of market power. Historically, the way antitrust litigants and courts have estimated power is by determining a market share of a properly defined “relevant market” of substitutable products. However, many firms sell more than a single product and, frequently, sell non-competing products. The possibility of aggregating noncompeting products or services leads to the creation of “cluster markets” consisting of noncompeting goods. Antitrust claims are often made regarding such clusters. It then becomes important to ask when it is sensible to locate power in the cluster itself, rather than in the simple presence of any particular item. This paper, available here, argues that clustering noncompeting products into a single market for purposes of antitrust analysis can be valuable, provided that the limitations of such an approach are understood. Clustering contributes to market power only when it is found, cumulatively, that: (1) many customers need or at least prefer the convenience of receiving the defendant’s grouping of…

Özlem Bedre-Defolie and Rainer Nitsche ‘When Do Markets Tip? An Overview and Some Insights for Policy’ (2020) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 11(10) 610

Competition authorities are increasingly concerned that their tools are not fit to deal with digital multi-sided platforms, which operate in markets that have a tendency to ‘tip’. However, the academic literature does not yet provide guidance on how to identify the likelihood of tipping in a market. Instead, the literature identifies a number of factors that might foster or mitigate tipping under certain circumstances. This paper, available here, reviews the literature and identifies the key market characteristics that facilitate tipping and those that mitigate it. It also advances four key questions to guide policy makers in the development of methods to identify the likelihood of tipping. Section 2 discusses factors that facilitate market tipping. The authors identify six key factors that foster tipping in markets with multisided platforms: positive network effects, single-homing and switching costs, free services, data-enabled learning, trust, and platforms’ complementary offerings. Markets with multisided platforms typically also exhibit classical factors that foster concentration, like economies of scale…

Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Antitrust and Platform Monopoly’ (2021) 130 Yale L.J

Should antitrust policy do more to promote competition in digital platform markets? Is antitrust law sufficient to address competition problems in digital platforms, or are those problems so common and widespread that they require more pervasive public control? This article, available here, argues that sustainable competition in platform markets is possible, and that the individualised approach of the antitrust laws is better for consumers and most other affected interest groups than more intrusive regulation. Antitrust intervention will be less likely to reduce product or service quality, limit innovation, or reduce output than other regulatory alternatives. To achieve these outcomes, antitrust law needs to treat digital platform markets for what they are: markets that have some unique characteristics, but markets nonetheless. As a result, for the most part competition problems in them can be controlled with the antitrust tools we have. Section I considers digital platform monopoly. Antitrust policy is concerned with exercises of market power. The power question for digital…

Niamh Dunne ‘Platforms as Regulators’ (2020) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement

The contention that certain digital platforms act as ‘regulators’ within the context of their own business models, and are subject to specific obligations under competition law as a result, is a key basis upon which authors have argued for a wide-ranging duty for dominant platforms to secure competition that is ‘fair, unbiased and pro-users’. This article, available here, seeks to shed light on this contention, exploring its meaning and the implications for platform operators. Consideration is further given to whether the platforms-as-regulators notion aligns with alternative modes of regulation in the digital sphere. Section II introduces the idea of platforms-as-regulators. Increasing emphasis is being placed on the ‘gatekeeper’ role that platforms may play by controlling access to certain market segments or customers groups, thus rendering them an unavoidable fixture within digital ecosystems. By selecting (and enforcing) the platform policies and rules that delimit the parameters of competitive interaction within their own ecosystems, online platforms essentially ‘regulate’ these spheres, and thus…