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Archive for December 7th, 2011

Microsoft/Skype- On how to unconditionally clear a monopoly in Phase I

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My “learned” co-blogger (and NY-Times interviewee of the week) initiated a very interesting debate yesterday with regard to the Microsoft/Skype clearance decision. I must confess that I read the decision last evening on the plane back fromFlorence (more on that tomorrow) and, to be frank, I was astonished. Let me briefly, and not exhaustively, explain to you why:

As our usual readers know, I’ve a particular interest in looking at how competition authorities appraise network effects in competition cases (it was the topic of my LL.M dissertation and it’s also supposed to be the topic of a pending PhD project). Since the Microsoft/Skype merger involves two entities benefitting from huge network effects I regarded this decision as a must read.

Well, I was wrong; the decision is a must RE-READ: I had to read certain paragraphs several times in order to make sure that it wasn’t just that I was tired and couldn’t make sense out of it. After several re-reads, I reached the conclusion that, actually, parts of it don’t make any sense.

Nicolas said yesterday that “the decision clearly shows that a merger involving a large monopoly can get Phase I clearance”. I was not involved in this case and therefore I may be missing something but, if you ask me, the decision reads as if the Commission already knew that it wanted to clear the decision in Phase I and then tried to construct an assessment that would fit its pre-determined conclusion. Arguing in a convincing manner that the creation of a “large monopoly” such as the one at issue does not raise competitive concerns and is suitable for Phase I clearance is practically impossible. Nonetheless, that is what the decision has tried to do. And, inevitably, that leads to serious logical problems.

Even from the perspective of an outsider [PS. see note at the end of the post]  it’s easy to detect many defects, but for the sake of brevity (notably because I have only allocated one hour of today’s afternoon to write down my notes about this) let’s focus just on one of the Commission’s errors. I have chosen to present you with an error concerning the market for consumer communications because it involves network effects (which is what initially got me interested) and horizontal effects, and because all of us as consumers are able to understand it better. The decision is equally, perhaps even more, questionable with respect to the assessment of vertical and conglomerate effects in the market for enterprise communications, but that part is harder to explain in a brief post; I might develop my views on this in a later post.

In what follows I´ll explain what the decision says in this regards and I will provide you with my very personal views on the Commission´s reasoning. I might be right, but I certainly may as well be wrong. If interested in taking a look at the substantive stuff in other to arrive to your own conclusions, click here:

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Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

7 December 2011 at 9:07 pm