Online Platforms: Retailers, Genuine Agents or None of the Above?

Jun 20, 2013

CPI Europe Column edited by Anna Tzanaki (Competition Policy International) presents:

Online Platforms: Retailers, Genuine Agents or None of the Above? by Matthew Bennett (Charles River Associates)

Introduction by Europe Column editor Anna Tzanaki

In our June edition of the Europe Column, Matthew Bennet (CRA) explores the interesting case of online platforms and their treatment under EU competition law. The article highlights the limitations of any formalistic approaches such as using the Genuine Agency exception to address innovative patterns and business models, and suggests that such an approach risks hampering new business models whilst not actually preventing the competitive harm that may arise. In the end, what should be determinative is not the legal characterization of a (vertical) structure but “whether the arrangement is likely to restrict competition outside of the agreement” using the words of the author. In this regards, the reason why online platforms have drawn so much attention from antitrust regulators lately is the use of retail MFNs, rather than because there is an esoteric question of whether the platform is called a retailer or a provider of distribution services. The author argues that economics can help focus on the right questions and create clear and solid policy rules when assessing the competitive implications of the conduct of online platforms.

The article provides an excellent analysis of all these considerations. Enjoy read

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