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…

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…

Klaus Wiedemann ‘A Matter of Choice: The German Federal Supreme Court’s Interim Decision in the Abuse-of-Dominance Proceedings Bundeskartellamt v. Facebook (Case KVR 69/19)’ (2020) IIC – International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law volume 51 1168

In June 2020, the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) upheld the 2019 interim decision of the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) ordering Facebook to stop collecting data about its users without their consent when they use apps and visit websites outside Facebook’s social network.Importantly, the Federal Supreme Court confirmed that Facebook’s data collection was an abuse of its dominance in the (German) market for personal social networks, overruling an earlier decision of the Düsseldorf Court of Appeal (Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf). This piece, available here, explores the relevance of the case – and the courts’ different decisions – from a number of perspectives. Section II describes the Facebook case, up to the Supreme Federal Court’s judgment. In February 2019, the Bundeskartellamt found that Facebook was dominant on the market for social networks, and had abused this position by imposing terms of service allowing it: (i) to collect its users’ personal data (and data related to their terminal devices) from outside the actual social…

Rachel Scheele ‘Facebook: From Data Privacy to a Concept of Abuse by Restriction of Choice’ (2021) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 12(1) 34

On 23 June 2020, the German Federal Supreme Court found that Facebook violated German competition law by abusing its dominance in the market for social networks. The ruling, upholding the decision by the competition authority, is a major victory for advocates of addressing data-related competition concerns under Article 102 TFEU and its national equivalents. However, instead of focusing on the intersection between competition and data protection law in its reasoning, as the competition authority had, the Federal Supreme Court relied on the concept of restriction of consumer choice. This article, available here, casts light on the Facebook case and its practical relevance. Section 2 reviews the Facebook infringement decision. In 2019, the German Bundeskartellamt found that Facebook had abused its dominant position on the German market for personal social networks by imposing unfair terms and conditions on its users. The Bundeskartellamt’s case linked antitrust violations with data protection law, and relied on alleged infringements of the EU’s General Data Protection…

Competition and Markets Authority ‘Regulation and Competition – A Review of the Evidence’ (2020)

It is well established that effective competition is a key mechanism for improving outcomes for consumers. There is a concern that regulation can have the effect of stifling competition, and thereby deprive customers of these benefits, for example through raising barriers to entry. At the same time, different forms of regulation have an important role to play in supporting competition, for example by providing the legal and economic frameworks within which competition takes place. It is therefore important to take into account the benefits as well as the costs when considering the impact of regulation. The purpose of this report, available here, is to summarise existing evidence about the impact of regulation on competition, both in terms of the academic research and the way in which regulation is designed and implemented in practice. It does so as follows: Section 2 introduces the topic. Competition and regulation are sometimes portrayed as mutually exclusive; for instance, either you have competition policy to…