Colluding Through Smart Technologies: Understanding Agreements In The Age Of Algorithms

By Giuseppe Colangelo (University of Basilicata) & Francesco Mezzanotte (Roma Tre University)

By affecting business strategies and consumers’ behavior, the wide-scale use of algorithms, prediction machines and blockchain technology is currently challenging the suitability of several legal rules and notions which have been designed to deal with human intervention. In the specific sector of antitrust law, the question is arising on the adequacy of the traditional doctrines sanctioning anticompetitive cartels to tackle coordinated practices which, in the absence of an explicit “meeting of the minds” of their participants, may be facilitated by algorithmic processes adopted, and eventually shared, by market actors. The main concern in these cases, discussed both at regulatory and academic level, derives from the general observation that while the traditional concept of collusive agreement requires some form of mutual understanding among parties, nowadays decision-making of firms is increasingly transferred to digitalized tools. Moving on from these premises, the paper investigates the impact that the rules applicable to the conclusion of (smart) contracts may have, from an antitrust law perspective, in the detection and regulation of anticompetitive practices.

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