By Pablo Ibañez Colomo (Chilling Competition)
Competition law is undergoing an exciting – perhaps unprecedented – period of reform and change. Public bodies and academic institutions are evaluating, from Australia to Germany (and indeed the EU), whether it is necessary to introduce adjustments to the discipline to ensure that it is up to emerging challenges, namely digital and sustainable development. The perception that it may not be able to adapt to a changing landscape is driving the demand for broader, faster and more intrusive competition law.
The desire to move fast and decisively to tackle perceived threats to the competitive process is understandable. The wish to improve the system for the better, in turn, is commendable. The fact that competition law is deemed to be a major part of the response to some of the most pressing concerns in society, finally, says a lot about the continuing relevance of a field that was introduced in a different economic and technological landscape and that has proved capable to adapt to new demands.
The zeal for change, however, sometimes goes as far as to question some of the pillars of the field. The fact that competition policy is enforced through law is now openly criticised in some quarters. The argument is relatively straightforward: freed from the legal shackles, intervention would be faster, more effective and more responsive. Underpinning this position there is the idea that the law is inherently conservative and insufficiently reactive to emerging issues. It sees with suspicion the EU courts’ dislike of sweeping changes and preference for incremental adjustments to legal doctrines…