In antitrust policy discourse (particularly, but not exclusively, concerning the digital economy), there is often a background assumption that intermediaries impose a consumer and societal cost. Thus, the colloquial phrase “cut out the middleman” – which, translating from the vernacular to the parlance of antitrust means “disintermediate” the consumption of goods – is a formulation that will never lose currency.
One therefore commonly sees arguments that consumer welfare would be enhanced if only end-users could freely combine products from different providers. This commonly takes the form of arguments against bundled goods, walled gardens, and other forms of intermediation. These arguments often have great merit, but, as always, the true picture is more nuanced and complex.
Current debates in this regard take place in the context of accelerating reform of competition and other rules, particularly as they apply to the digital economy, and – arguably – a newly invigorated trend in antitrust enforcement in the EU, the U.S., and worldwide. The articles in this Chronicle draw out various aspects of the role of intermediaries in the economy (both digital and physical) and in antitrust analysis.
Dr. Christophe Carugati discusses the EU’s proposed Digital Markets Act (“DMA”). The DMA will impose obligations and prohibitions on large online platforms that act as so-called “gatekeepers.” The same platforms are al...