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2018 Competition Lore Highlights

As the year draws to a close, this episode takes us on a short stroll down memory lane, re-capping key debates and recurring themes and reliving some of the highlights and the lighter moments from the Competition Lore discussion over its first six months. Featuring regular cut-through interviews with leading thinkers, movers and shakers, Competition Lore is a podcast series that engages us all in a debate about the transformative potential and risks of digitalised competition. Join Caron...


The Myth of Capitalism?

“Capitalism without competition is not capitalism”. That is the fundamental and irrefutable premise of a new book by Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn, The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition, named one of the best economics books of 2018 by The Financial Times. Tepper and Hearn launch a stinging attack on high concentration and insipid competition in the US economy today, documenting and explaining its symptoms and side effects at length. This is a polemic that takes...


What's in the water in Germany?

The German legislature and competition agency are on the front foot in shoring up antitrust laws and taking action to deal with the challenges raised by a digital economy. Merger notification rules have been amended to ensure that acquisitions of small but significant competitors by the tech giants do not fall through the net. The Bundeskartellamt is engaged in a controversial investigation of Facebook’s data collection practices. And a raft of new regulation for platforms is on the...


Google, our "God"?

When grappling with competition issues in the digital economy, Google is often the first name to come up. The tech powerhouse has been in the firing line of competition authorities in Europe. Its business model and strategies have sparked intense debate about what big data and big analytics mean for competition and how or even whether antitrust enforcers should respond. And, yet, for users who share their most intimate details with the search engine, Google has been equated with a...


Why do we need maverick academics?

Academics are making an important contribution to current debates regarding the policies and laws that govern competition in the digital era. Independence and objectivity in academic research are crucial to the value and impact of that contribution. In this second episode in our mini-series on Academics and Big Tech, you’ll hear from Professor Ioannis Lianos of University College London on why he considers there to be serious risks to the integrity of academic research as a result of...


Academics in the Age of Big Tech?

Technological transformations are raising a host of legal and economic issues that are keeping competition law academics very busy! But are there risks to academic independence in the era of big tech? And are they any different to the experience with big oil, big tobacco, big pharma? Recently there has been publicity surrounding the extent to which large tech companies are funding academic research that supports their policy and legal objectives. Some are concerned that this threatens the...


GAFA in China?

“I think it’s hard to have a mission of wanting to bring the whole world closer together and leave out the biggest country..”. That was Mark Zuckerberg’s response when asked recently about Facebook’s record of attempted entry into China. By and large GAFA have struggled to compete in the largest economy in the world. Meanwhile BAT (the homegrown tech trio, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) represent the new Chinese dragons, dominating in search, e-commerce, messaging, AI and other digital market...


Android – An Open Or Shut Case?

On 18 July this year Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition czar, announced a record €4.3 billion fine against Google in relation to various practices concerning Android, the search giant’s popular mobile operating system. It comes just over a year after the European Commission’s €2.4 billion fine in the so-called Google Shopping case, discussed with Professor Pinar Akman on episode 7 of Competition Lore. The Android case relates to complex contractual agreements that Google requires...


Competition and algorithms – friend or foe?

One of the fathers of economics, Adam Smith, famously said: “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” He was referring of course to the irresistible temptation by competitors to collude. Business collusion to subvert competition may be as old as the hills but it is facing new challenges. In today’s world, the combination of Big Data,...


What is privacy and why does it matter?

What’s behind the statement that all of us make sometimes: “that’s none of your business!”? Have you ever thought about when and why you regard your information or behaviour as private? These are questions that we all need to grapple with in a platform economy, the basis for which is the collection and use of vast amounts of personal data. Some regard privacy as a human right, integral to our personhood. Others regard it as an asset, tradeable for commercial value. There is also a view...


Why should trust be the centrepiece of a data-driven economy?

Big Data and Big Analytics have policymakers in a frenzy. In some parts of the world this is leading to regulation that provides greater protection for privacy. But what does privacy have to do with competition? There are heated debates about whether stricter privacy regulation will shut down competition and innovation or whether it will drive competitive forces in a data-driven economy. Much of the debate has been focused on Europe’s latest Big Tech missile, the General Data Protection...


Did Google get shopped by the European Commission?

As debates about big tech heat up, one of the talking points has been the decision of the European Commission to impose a record €2.42 billion fine on Google for abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. The decision took 7 years to make and is now on appeal. But Google is not alone in disagreeing with it. Some experts argue that the way in which Google’s search engine dealt with rival comparison shopping sites doesn’t fit...


Is Big Tech really all that BAD?

The argument over Big Data is split. Some argue Big Data makes a small number of platform companies extremely powerful. These companies have so much data and such resources that they can damage competition, erode our privacy and maybe even distort our democracy. But not everyone shares this view. Others say the data giants are so gigantic because they serve us so well. We value what they offer and most of us don’t mind paying for it with our privacy. The ‘big is bad’ theory is not only...


Are the best things in life still free?

Ever thought of your data as currency? When was the last time you read the privacy policy when you signed up to an online service? Who has the time? And what are you going to do if you don’t agree? Professor Maurice Stucke argues that what we all thought was free, is still actually costing us – it’s just not taking our money. Coining that now pervasive aphorism, in the digital world the currency is data and we may well be handing it over without knowing its true value. This is just one of a...


Do competition authorities need to transform themselves in a digitally transformed world?

The digital revolution affecting economies and societies cuts across multiple areas of government policy and is engendering an active dialogue between policymakers. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is playing a key role in advancing this dialogue and no more so than in the area of competition policy. Should governments be regulating powerful data-driven companies? What tools and skills do competition authorities need to protect competition in a digital economy? How...


Are digital platforms destroying the news? The ACCC inquires…

The way we consume news and media has changed dramatically over the past decade. Print newspapers are almost a thing of nostalgia and few of us wait to sit down in front of a television just to see what’s happening. Digital platforms are replacing media empires. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is conducting an inquiry into the effect that digital search engines, social media and content aggregators have on media and advertising. Rod Sims is the Chairman of the ACCC – a role...


When is a business a platform?

Many of us use the term "platform" on a daily basis to describe businesses that we connect with online. But when and how does a business act as a platform? And what difference does this make to platform users, whether as consumers or other businesses that sell or advertise products and services on it? Professor Dick Schmalensee has been studying platforms since at least the 1980s. He says the simplest definition of a platform is a business that brings different sides together. It's an old...


What are data-opolies and should we be worried about them?

There has been vigorous debate about the concentration of market power in super-platforms like Google and Facebook. Do we have the policy tools to preserve competition? What are the implications of increasingly powerful data-opolies? The new economy has led some scholars to question the economic theories that have underpinned competition policy since the '80s, and in some parts of the world, politicians and policymakers are taking notice. One of the clearest voices challenging the orthodoxy...


Competition Lore Trailer

Competition in a digital economy is a new frontier. Featuring regular cut-through interviews with leading thinkers, movers and shakers, Competition Lore is a podcast series that engages us all in a debate about the transformative potential and risks of digitalised competition. Join Caron Beaton-Wells, Professor in Competition Law at the University of Melbourne, to tackle what it means to participate as a competitor, consumer or citizen in a digital economy and society. Competition Lore...