On 4 April, Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, gave a speech in Bucharest on defending competition in a digital world and presented a report on Competition policy in the digital era. The report was delivered by the three Special Advisers appointed by the Commissioner last year.
The authors of the report were tasked to explore how competition policy should evolve to continue to promote pro-consumer innovation in the digital age. The report describes the digital world and what is seen by the authors as the main ways in which markets function in the digital era. It also outlines authors’ views of the goals of EU competition law in the digital era and the methodologies it should use. Furthermore, the authors discuss the application of competition rules to platforms and data, and they inquire whether European merger control needs an update.
Regarding the issue of acquisitions of start-ups by dominant platforms or ecosystems, the authors have proposed to strengthen and re-design conglomerate theories of harm. As regards data access, the report argues that the aftermarket doctrine needs to be re-examined to better reflect the new relevance of data-driven lock-ins.
As for the role that data interoperability may play, with a view to dominant platforms, the authors argue that it can be a remedy against anti-competitive leveraging of market power into markets for complementary services. In some areas, the report proposes that a regulatory regime may be needed in the longer run. In particular, competition law enforcement may be overburdened to deal with the implementation and oversight of interoperability mandates imposed on dominant players. The authors also argue that competition agencies can contribute to the better functioning of the digital economy by providing more guidance.
In addition, a significant part of the report focuses on how to identify and constrain the abuse of market power. The primary emphasis has been on providing some guidance on how well-functioning data markets may be promoted. According to the report, this includes procompetitive cooperation in the field of data and the need to break up data bottlenecks where they impede effective competition and impede innovation.
Finally, the report highlights the need for the competition policy academic community and for regulatory agencies to gain a better understanding of both the technologies that underpin the digital sector and the relevance of data for competition and competition enforcement.
The full report is available here.