Jorge Padilla, Joe Perkins, Salvatore Piccolo, 22 October 2020

Alleged market abuse by technology firms with large bases of loyal customers has become a pressing policy concern. This column argues that significant consumer harm can result from the attempts of these ‘gatekeeper platforms’ to gain revenue from their installed bases of platform users at the expense of third-party firms offering complementary services. The authors suggest possible ways forward for competition authorities currently considering new regulation of digital markets.

Cristina Caffarra, Gregory Crawford, 05 October 2020

Another week, another tech merger, but this time with huge potential implications for who owns our health data and how it is used. Cristina Caffarra and Greg Crawford tell Tim Phillips why 17 economists have written a paper describing harm that Google's acquisition of Fitbit would cause to consumers.

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Marc Bourreau, Cristina Caffarra, Zhijun Chen, Chongwoo Choe, Gregory Crawford, Tomaso Duso, Christos Genakos, Paul Heidhues, Martin Peitz, Thomas Rønde, Monika Schnitzer, Nicolas Schutz, Michelle Sovinsky, Giancarlo Spagnolo, Otto Toivanen, Tommaso Valletti, Thibaud Vergé, 30 September 2020

The European Commission is conducting an in-depth investigation of the Google/Fitbit deal. A static, conventional view would suggest limited issues from a merger of complements. Yet, as this column outlines, unprecedented concerns arise when one sees that allowing for Fitbit’s data gathering capabilities to be put in Google’s hands creates major risks of “platform envelopment,” extension of monopoly power and consumer exploitation. The combination of Fitbit’s health data with Google’s other data creates unique opportunities for discrimination and exploitation of consumers in healthcare, health insurance and other sensitive areas, with major implications for privacy too. We also need to worry about incentives to pre-empt competition that could threaten Google’s data collection dominance. As the consensus is now firmly that preventing bad mergers is a key tool for competition policy vis-a-vis acquisitive digital platforms, the European Commission and other authorities should be very sceptical of this deal, and realistic about their limited ability to design, impose and monitor appropriate remedies.

Christian Peukert, Stefan Bechtold, Michail Batikas, Tobias Kretschmer, 30 September 2020

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in 2018 to tackle issues of privacy and personal data. Looking at over 110,700 websites before and after the introduction of the regulation, this column examines its effect on non-EU-based websites and on other policy domains, such as competition or trade policy. Both EU-based and non-EU-based websites switched to more privacy-sensitive technologies following GDPR, but only in the short term. The market for web tracking technologies became more concentrated, with Google gaining the most market share among large providers. Privacy regulations can function as nonpecuniary barriers to trade, especially if enacted by a large economic area.

Cristina Caffarra, Tommaso Valletti, 04 March 2020

Elena Argentesi, Paolo Buccirossi, Emilio Calvano, Tomaso Duso, Alessia Marrazzo, Salvatore Nava, 04 March 2020

Dominant companies in the digital market may use merger and acquisitions – especially ‘killer’ or ‘zombie’ acquisitions – and the (under)enforcement of merger control to stifle competition and cement their market dominance. This column analyses acquisition activity by Amazon, Facebook, and Google between 2008 and 2018, and finds that they often targeted very young firms. Because the evolution of young firms is still uncertain, it is difficult for competition authorities to assess the effects of these mergers, especially when the focus is on single acquisitions without considering the overall acquisition strategy.

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The intensive course in Competition in Digital Markets will be held at the Barcelona GSE from November 20 to 22, 2019. This course offers the opportunity to understand how the digital economy works, and under what conditions competition may not function as it should in this sector. It provides participants with a thorough understanding of how to evaluate the substitutability between different offerings and when to view practices such as tying, exclusive contracts, price-parity clauses, and discriminatory access to platforms as anti-competitive (but also explain in what circumstances they are likely to be beneficial).

Course lecturers includes leading international competition scholars and practitioners with extensive experience of the application of economic techniques to competition cases in this area:

Giulio Federico (Head of Unit, CET, DG Competition European Commission)

Chiara Fumagalli (Associate Professor of Economics, Bocconi University)

Massimo Motta (Professor of Economics, ICREA-UPF and Barcelona GSE; former Chief Competition Economist, European Commission) - course director

Martin Peitz (Professor of Economics, University of Mannheim)

An Early Bird discount will be offered to participants confirming their attendance before October 20. A reduced course fee is also available to Regulators, Competition Authorities, Academics and Barcelona GSE Alumni.

Wendy C.Y. Li, Makoto Nirei, Kazufumi Yamana, 23 July 2019

Online platforms that provide services at zero monetary cost benefit greatly from the data these transactions generate. This column proposes a new method to value these data, based on firm investments in organisational capital. The method also captures the social value of consumer data. Accurate estimates may guide investment and improve national accounts.

John Van Reenen, 19 July 2019

John Van Reenen discusses how 'superstar firms' such as Google and Apple have changed the global economy.

Alberto Bailin Rivares, Peter Gal, Valentine Millot, Stéphane Sorbe, 19 June 2019

While the innovative features of online platforms offer the potential to improve the performance of service sectors, they raise many new challenges for policymakers. Using Google search data on service industries in ten OECD countries, this column shows that platforms generally stimulate the productivity of incumbent service firms, but the impact crucially depends on the type of platform considered. Productivity gains tend to be lower when a platform is persistently dominant on its market, suggesting that the contestability of platform markets should be promoted in order to maximise their economic benefits.

Joan Calzada, Ricard Gil, 30 April 2019

The new European copyright directive prohibits online aggregators from linking to news outlets or publications without the prior authorisation of the publisher. This column uses the 2014 shutdown of Google News in Spain to demonstrate that news aggregators can have a positive impact on outlets’ traffic, in particular outlets with more casual readers, those with a low national rank, and those with fewer international visitors. This heterogenous effect suggests publishers and aggregators may wish to negotiate their own specific compensation terms for content use.

Simon Anderson, Øystein Foros, Hans Kind, 15 August 2018

Media platforms traditionally delivered the widest possible audience to advertisers. This column argues that the arrival of digital competition in media has created a battle for ‘exclusive eyeballs’ – a niche audience not shared with competitors. While this increases diversity in the media, it also incentivises media outlets to polarise to attract specific groups, and to create echo chambers to retain them.

Alexandre de Cornière, Greg Taylor, 15 August 2018

A general challenge facing competition authorities in the digital era is learning how to apply the traditional tools of competition policy in multi-sided platform environments. This column argues that the Google Android case offers a great example of the need to consider the implications of the market's two-sidedness. It also argues that bundling can, in fact, be profitable by virtue of its effect on competition once one accounts for some of the key features of mobile app markets.

Hal Varian, 14 August 2018

The European Commission’s case against Android has been hailed as a “milestone” in antitrust enforcement. This column, written by Google’s Chief Economist, argues that the case is more of a millstone than a milestone for not just Google, but the entire Android ecosystem of equipment manufacturers, carriers, app developers, and end users.

Cristina Caffarra, Oliver Latham, Matthew Bennett, Federico Etro, Pierre Régibeau, Robert Stillman, 27 July 2018

The European Commission’s decision to fine Google €4.34 billion for abuse of market power has been accused of being politically motivated and of risking higher prices for consumers. This column argues that the Commission’s decision has economic merit and falls within established legal precedent. As mobile search is the key gateway to access information, we should be concerned about dominance in this market for its potential distortionary effects on innovation and consumer outcomes across multiple other markets.

Federico Etro, 11 June 2011

The Internet has opened up a whole new realm in advertising, with Google at the helm. Within this, search advertising has recently come under investigation from competition authorities. This column seeks to aid the understanding of this special market, its definition, its structure, and the role of its leader.

Martin Ravallion, 14 February 2011

For how long have we cared about poverty? Tracing the number of references to the word “poverty” in books published since 1700, this column shows that there was marked increase between 1740 and 1790, culminating in a “Poverty Enlightenment”. Attention then faded through the 19th and 20th centuries, leaving room for the second Poverty Enlightenment in 1960 – and interest in poverty still rising.

Federico Etro, 30 January 2011

The dominant firm in online advertising is under investigation by many antitrust authorities. The EU Competition Commission is the latest to breathe heavily down its neck. Analysing Google’s market behaviour, particularly its search and display advertising model, this column argues that such investigations are welcome; the world needs to know if Google is abusing its market power.

Paolo Manasse, Giulio Trigilia, 27 September 2010

Many countries in Europe now have a coalition government. This column uses data from Italy to argue that this comes at a cost. It finds a positive and significant relationship between the political instability caused and a rise in government yields, making today’s fiscal adjustments even more difficult and painful.

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