Competition Law and Economics: A Mid-Atlantic Viewpoint

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John Vickers, Mar 22, 2007

Introduction When contemplating competition law and policy, many economists, I suspect, are somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. That is to say, they feel uncomfortable with aspects of EC competition law on the grounds that it is too interventionist, and with aspects of US antitrust on the grounds that it is too laissez faire. I confess that I indulged in some mid-Atlantic musings during my time at the Office of Fair Trading. Sometimes the longitude tended to be around the Azores, but curiously, when in Brussels, my mind occasionally drifted towards Bermuda.

My aim this evening, then, is to offer some mid-Atlantic thoughts – first about competition economics, then about law, which I know much less about. There will be two main themes. The first is that in some respects there has been a remarkable degree of convergence not just internationally but also between economics and the interpretation of the law. The second is that the Ocean remains wide in other respects , and might be about to widen further. This last point is a reference to vertical price-fixing agreements, and the Leegin case now before the United States Supreme Court, which I suggest deserves our close attention in Europe.

Competition economics – convergence My first proposition, which might sound unlikely to an audience of competition law practitioners, is that competition economists are largely in agreement about the…

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