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The EC is planning to regulate “gatekeeper” digital platforms, the UK is planning to establish a Digital Markets Unit, Australia is starting to implement the recommendations of its 600+ page Digital Platforms Inquiry, and the U.S. House of Representatives is holding hearings on how to protect consumers in digital markets. And they all need help!

In this special policy panel originally scheduled to be part of the annual CEPR Applied IO Conference in Rome, four economists at the front lines of competition policymaking worldwide will discuss the gaps in knowledge inhibiting policy responses to enhance consumer welfare in digital markets.

Topics to be discussed include:

• Business models matter for incentives and thus the likelihood of anticompetitive practices. Do we have models for all the types of platform businesses out there? If not, what is modeled best and what is lacking?

• Umpire and player? Platforms are often two-sided, with consumers coming to seek services. Many recent antitrust investigations are focusing on the case where platforms are vertically integrating to provide these services in competition with 3rd-party providers. When is steering and self-preferencing anti-competitive and when is it efficient? Do we have the models to understand incentives in search versus app stores versus online retail? What data do policymakers need to evaluate these questions? And should there be “rules governing rules” when the platform is both umpire and player?

• Measuring harms? Can economists do better in providing quantitative tools to assess the harms that are often important in digital platforms but are not price, e.g. quality of service (including privacy and exploitative, false, and/or addictive content), innovation, and the probability (and welfare effects) of markets that tip? As well as pass-through of prices for “free” services that are monetized on the other side of the market?

• Regulation is coming but what should it look like? In the last weeks, the EU put out a quote for a study to support their plans for “gatekeeper” regulations. What research is already available to answer their questions and where are there gaps?

We anticipate a lively discussion with ample opportunity for comments and questions from the audience.

To Attend: The conference will be held on Zoom and if you wish to attend, you are required to register in advance using the link below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the seminar. If you are unable to join, we will record the panel and post it to the VIOS website.

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