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Algorithmic Antitrust: Enforcing Competition Rules in the Age of Algorithms

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Algorithmic Antitrust: Enforcing Competition Rules in the Age of Algorithms

Date:
Friday 06 March 2020
Time:
8.30am - 6.30pm
Venue:
Waldegrave Drawing Room, St Mary’s University

Book your place now

This conference is sponsored by Linklaters.

Whether we are aware of them or not, algorithms are ubiquitous. The moment we Google something, shop online, ‘like’ a post or click on a link, algorithms are triggered that use these actions and associated data to generate processes that, ultimately, affect our daily lives.

The information economy is no longer just about transactions and the data therein and it’s no longer just about Big Data; the algorithmic economy is here and the prevailing emphasis on how we use data (i.e. algorithms) to achieve desired outcomes is transforming the way we interact with big-business, third-sector organisations, governments and individuals. 

The pace of technological development in this field is rapid and unfettered and there is a pressing need to really understand the power and agency of algorithms in terms of market interactions. Questions about how fairness and transparency are ensured for all parties involved in algorithmic-driven interactions have yet to be fully answered. 

In addition, uncertainties exist around the ability of current and future legislation to keep pace with the fast-changing technological developments that have given birth to this new dimension of the digital economy.

This conference is aimed at examining competition rules in terms of algorithm-driven business, or algorithmic antitrust. It comes at a pivotal juncture in the algorithmic antitrust discussion, with several opinion-leading reviews having been published this year, including: ‘Algorithms and Competition, a joint study from the French and German Competition Authorities; ‘Unlocking Digital Competition’, a report from the Digital Competition Expert Panel summarising the panel’s review of competition in digital markets; and ‘Competition Policy for the Digital Era’, a report published by the European Commission that addressed the implications of algorithm technology on antitrust issues. 

Without doubt, the domination of algorithms in the information economy poses difficult and complex questions for antitrust policy-makers, in a fast-moving and ever-changing technological environment.

The four sessions of this one-day Conference will consider algorithmic antitrust within four themes:

  • Algorithmic Antitrust & Collusive Practices;
  • Algorithmic Antitrust & Abuses of Dominance;
  • Algorithmic Antitrust & Mergers;
  • Algorithmic Antitrust & Blockchain. 

This conference brings together world experts from academia, leading law firms, and key organisations (such as the Competition Market Authority and the OECD) and two keynote speakers: Philip Marsden, co-author of the UK Report "Unlocking Digital Competition", and Stefan Hunt, Chief Data and Technology Insights Officer at the Competition Market Authority.

Registration

Event is free to attend but booking is essential due to room capacity.

Book your place now

Programme

  • 8.30am: Registration and Coffee
  • 9am: Welcome Speech
  • 9.10am: Keynote Speech by Philip Marsden
  • 9.45am: Session 1 – Algorithmic Antitrust and Collusive Practices
  • 11am: Coffee Break
  • 11.15am: Session 2 - Algorithmic Antitrust & Abuse of Dominance
  • 12.30pm: Lunch
  • 1.30pm: Session 3 - Algorithmic Antitrust and Mergers
  • 2.45pm: Coffee Break
  • 3pm: Session 4 - Algorithmic Antitrust & Blockchain
  • 4.15pm: Keynote Speaker: Stefan Hunt
  • 5pm: Cocktail Reception
Session one: Algorithmic Antitrust & Collusive Practices
Chair: Aurelien Portuese

This Session will examine the risks of both tacit and overt collusion between firms via the mechanism of algorithmic processing. Overt algorithmic collusion can arise whenever algorithms are designed so that pricing strategies are aligned amongst competing firms. Tacit algorithmic collusion can arise whenever pricing algorithms, with no communication and/or exchange of information, set prices in a non-optimal, yet stable, level. Competition authorities face new, complex challenges when unearthing algorithmic collusion and the burden of evidence relies on technological arguments concerning algorithmic design. This session will examine the intellectual debate, as well as the real-life enforcement challenges brought about by algorithmic collusions.

Contributors

Prof Ioannis Kokkoris

Prof Ioannis Kokkoris holds the Chair in Competition Law and Economics at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, UK. He is also the Dean of Global Engagement in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Kokkoris is an expert on Competition Law and Economics. His research interests span all areas of competition law and policy including comparative competition law/economics and policy focusing on EU, US, BRICS and ASEAN. Professor Kokkoris formerly served at the UK Competition and Markets Authority, DG Competition, European Commission and US Federal Trade Commission.

Bruce Wardhaugh

Bruce Wardhaugh is a Senior Lecturer in Competition Law at the School of Law of the University of Manchester. He holds LLB (JD) and PhD degrees from the University of Toronto, and an LLM from the University of Amsterdam. Prior to beginning an academic career in law, Bruce practiced in British Columbia (Canada) for several years.

Andreas Stephan

Andreas Stephan is Professor of Competition Law and Head of UEA Law School. He has a background in both Law and Economics and has published articles on all aspects of cartel enforcement. Andreas has a particular interest in the competition laws of emerging and developing economies. He is a Non-Governmental Advisor to the International Competition Network's (ICN) Advocacy Working Group and a member of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Research Partnership Platform.

Cristina Volpin

Cristina Volpin is a Competition Expert at the OECD, where she conducts research on various competition law and policy topics for the OECD Competition Committee and contributes to capacity-building activities for competition authorities. She is a qualified lawyer in Italy, where she worked in two top-tier Italian law firms (Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners, and Chiomenti).

Aurelien Portuese

Aurelien Portuese chairs the session. He is a Senior Lecturer in Law at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and Programme Director for the LL.M. in European Business Law (in partnership with The Catholic University of Paris). Aurelien is also an Adjunct Professor in EU Competition Law at the Global Antitrust Institute of the Antonin Scalia Law School of Georges Mason University.

Session two: Algorithmic Antitrust & Abuse of Dominance
Chair: Philip Marsden

The innovative capabilities offered by algorithms are open to abuse by dominant firms who may seek to enhance their market positions. For example, a dominant firm could use its algorithm to refuse to supply, give access to, or unfairly discriminate against downstream rivals. When a dominant firm's algorithm becomes standard business processing, such refusal or discriminatory conduct can be construed as an abuse of dominant position. However, to what extent, after considering the potential efficiency and innovative gains, does such conduct yield net anti-competitive effects? Another example is the use of algorithms to facilitate excessive pricing, to the extent that predatory pricing can be made easier by the power and dominance of a given algorithm. These anti-competitive risks will be discussed in this Session, together with illustrative cases.

Contributors

Dr Despoina Mantzar

Dr Despoina Mantzari is a Lecturer in Competition Law and Policy at UCL. She is a book review editor for the journal World Competition Law and Economics Review (Kluwer Law), an associate editor for the Journal of Competition Law and Economics (OUP) and sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement (OUP). Since 2016, Deni has been General Editor for the 'Competition Law of the European Union' treatise published by LexisNexis, where she succeeded the leading Competition Law professor, Valentine Korah.

Niamh Dunne

Niamh Dunne is an Associate Professor of Law at the London School of Economics [where?], teaching in the areas of Competition and EU Law. She holds law degrees from the University of Cambridge (BA, PhD), NYU School of Law (LLM) and King's College, London (MA). She is qualified as a solicitor in Ireland and in England & Wales (both non-practising), and as an attorney in New York State.

Aurelien Portuese

Aurelien Portuese is Senior Lecturer in Law at St Mary’s University, Twickenham and Programme Director for the LL.M. in European Business Law (in partnership with The Catholic University of Paris). Aurelien is also an Adjunct Professor in EU Competition Law at the Global Antitrust Institute of the Antonin Scalia Law  School of Georges Mason University. Aurelien's research interests lie in competition/antitrust law and economics applied to digital markets and other complex algorithm-driven companies.

Philip Marsden

Philip Marsden chairs the session. Philip is co-author of "Unlocking Digital Competition" by the Furman Panel. He is Professor of Law and Economics at the College of Europe, Bruges and is co-founder and General Editor of the European Competition Journal, and the Oxford Competition Law case reporter series. Philip is also Senior Adviser at Charles River Associates. His research interests include innovation incentives, comparative competition law and online markets. For ten years, Philip held various roles at the UK Competition Authority. Philip is also Deputy Chair of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee.

Session three: Algorithmic Antitrust & Mergers
Moderator: Philippe Corruble

Mergers involving algorithm-driven firms require specific, rigorous and complex anti-trust and data analyses. Given the potential for anti-competitive foreclosures arising from dominant algorithmic processing, merger reviews require due care in assessing the level of firms’ concentration in a relevant market. Algorithms are able to lubricate the way different markets become intertwined, due to data portability and cross-subsidisation. Merger reviews that involve pricing algorithms require specialised pre- and post-merger analyses in order to consider the potential monopolisation effect in markets. The Facebook/WhatsApp merger, and the issues that arose post-merger, is a prime example of the challenging and rigorous analysis required when considering mergers involving algorithm-driven firms.

Contributors

David Bailey

David Bailey is a Visiting Professor of Law at King’s College, London, a barrister and author. Since 2015, he has been Standing Counsel to the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the Hong Kong Competition Commission. In 2017 he was a Non-Governmental Adviser to the International Competition Network. In 2019 he was ranked as one of the ‘Most Highly Regarded’ junior barristers in Who’s Who Legal UK Bar: Competition. Professor Bailey is also a member of Brick Court Chambers.

Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen

Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen is a Senior Research Fellow and the Director of the Competition Law Forum. Liza is a Non-Governmental Advisor to the International Competition Network. Liza sits on the advisory board of the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement (OUP) edited by Professor Bill Kovacic and Professor Ariel Ezrachi. Liza is the author of A Principle Approach to Abuse of Dominance (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and State Aid and Tax Rulings (Edward Elgar, 2019). She has published widely in national and international peer-reviewed journals

Philippe Corruble

Philippe Corruble chairs this session. After having taught 25 years competition law at HEC Paris, Philippe is Professor of Competition Law at the Catholic University of Paris, director of the LL.M. in International Business Law and a french lawyer specialising in competition law

Session four: Algorithmic Antitrust & Blockchain
Moderator: Stefan Hunt

Blockchain technologies enable a revolutionary approach to application of the law, economics and policy when considering competing firms. They enable the removal of middlemen due to the basic disintermediatory nature of its architecture; blockchain-enabled co-operation between market actors, including competing firms, is prone to collusive practices. Furthermore, there is the risk that dominant blockchain players develop ever more sophisticated ways to leverage blockchain technologies to enhance their market position. In this session blockchain-related antitrust issues will be discussed, as well as some of the positive benefits associated with blockchain.

Contributors

Thibault Schrepel

Thibault Schrepel is Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center at Harvard University and Assistant Professor in European Economic Law at Utrecht University School of Law. He is also an Associate Researcher at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and an Invited Professor at Sciences Po Paris. Thibault holds a Ph.D. in antitrust law (Europe & US) as well as a Master of Laws (LL. M.) in International Law and Legal Studies. In April 2018, he was awarded the “Academic Excellence” Award fromGCR (edition 2018) and two of his recent publications have been nominated for Concurrences “Antitrust Writing Awards”, edition 2019.

Chris Pike

Chris Pike is a competition expert at the OECD and author of best practice reports on a wide variety of topics in the fields of competition and regulatory economics, competition and policy, and regulatory policy.

Pierre Kirch

Pierre Kirch is Adjunct Professor of AI Law at the Catholic University of Paris and is a partner in the Litigation Department at Paul Hastings, where he divides his time between the firm’s offices in Paris and Brussels. He is a member of the firm’s worldwide antitrust and competition practice group. He focuses EU and French competition/antitrust law.

Book your place now

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Date:
Friday 06 March 2020
Time:
8.30am - 6.30pm
Venue:
Waldegrave Drawing Room, St Mary’s University


Book your place now

Find out more

For more information about this event please email conferences@stmarys.ac.uk or call 020 8240 8219.

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