Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Grillin’&Chillin’: Two new entrants in the competition press segment

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Competition is thriving in the chilling competition market. This blog always stood for the proposition that it’s possible to cover competition law in an informative, serious manner, yet with a relaxed or even purportedly fun tone. We are glad to see that apparantly there is increasing demand, and supply, for this. A number of new outlets have emerged and are doing a great job at chillin’ while grillin’ the real issues [I know it’s a bad one but, hey, I needed something to fit the image…] Instead of seeing them as rivals in attracting the short time span attention precious time of slacking  busy ompetition professionals, we see them as complementary goods. They also complement the excellent media services that for very good reasons have long dominated this field.

Two examples (that also share the odd commonality of featuring fishes in their logos) are these:

[Intermission: if any if you can identify a law firm and a department of an institution that also featured marine creatures in their logos, you get one of the last remaining Chillin’Competition meme-coffee mugs]

-Competition Lore, a podcast series run by Prof. Caron Beaton-Wells (University of Melbourne) where she seeks to engage guest in a debate about the role of competition in a digital economy and society.  To get more info, suscribe or listen to the 7 episodes available thus far, click here. Btw, Nicolas Petit (founder emeritus), who’s a big podcast fan, also recently appeared on a different series where he also touched on these issues (see here).

-POLITICO is taking a new approach to covering competition with two weekly publications: Fair Play, a briefing on what’s driving the competition world, and Competitive Edge, a column that analyzes and challenges ideas about mergers control, antitrust, state aid policy and more. Politico has been a very successful entrant in the EU media market, and has made an ambitious bet to cover competition policy too, with a team of expert senior journalists (Simon van Dorpe and Christian Oliver) and, unusually (for the good), a competition economist (Thibault Larger).

Their mandate is to explain how competition is increasingly the weapon used to shunt the policy through, whether it be in the digital single market, the energy union or any other enforcement area. Their primary focus centers on the politics, economics and personalities behind the cases, but they are also keen on op-eds and will soon also be giving subscribers data tracking and case monitoring. The tone is meant to be fun and thought-provoking, but they certainly are not afraid to touch on challenging or uncomfortable issues.  More info on their services is available here [pro@politico.eu]

Below we give you an example of their work, and we also use the occasion to recycle some of the quotes that weren’t finally used  throw some ideas out there that we did not discuss here. Since they are good media professionals, their articles give you quotes from all sides. Since we are (I am) a biased, conflicted, non-neutral lawyer, below I only reproduce only mines 😉

These hyperlinks enable you to read the full pieces which would otherwise only be available to subscribers:

MULTI-SIDED MARKES AND AMEX. Politico ran a very good piece explaining the arguments on the multi-sided discussion on the SCOTUS decision in Amex. For that piece, we contributed with views that I had already advanced on the blog. This is what I sent Thibault for that one (including a couple of quotes that did not make it to the article, but that I still think may be of interest): (i) “The Opinion effectively holds that complex, multi-faceted market realities cannot be examined in silos. Requiring that the full picture be considered is sensible and in line with established EU case law“; (ii)  “The only practices that this Opinion exempts from antitrust liability are those that are necessary for the operation of business models that overall do not restrict but foster competition“; (iii) “The case in no way immunizes multi-sided platforms, nor should it. The case is however a blow to the Nirvana fallacy that one can challenge piecemeal a complex business model under the assumption that only positive things will follow“; (iv) “In reality, this all boils down to the burden of proof. It may be hard to show with empirical evidence that a given practice is, or is not, necessary for a platform to deliver established procompetitive benefits. Very often one simply does not know. But holding that uncertainty plays against the accused would be problematic on many levels“.

POLITICS IN COMPETITION. Politico recently inquired into the real role of politics in competition policy and cases.. My quoted view was that “Political principles guide competition policy. There’s nothing inherently wrong about that.” The problem comes when politics impacts not on policy the outcome of specific individual cases. My additional views on these question avoided recent big cases and mostly focused on State aid cases, where “politics plays a particularly evident and crucial role“. This is because “the institutional set up for State aid cases puts the center of gravity on Member States, so politics inevitably plays a much more important role”. In my view, “a way to make State aid control less political and more objective would be to grant more rights and a greater role to companies (beneficiaries and complainants)”.  In any event, “Courts are however well placed to identify and correct any undue influence of short-term politics”.

HR RULES AT DG COMP. A recent piece crunched through which big players at DG COMP would soon have to move according to HR rules. My take was the value of these rules to the EC is arguable and, in addition, DG Comp is a different animal (there are others, like the Legal Service). Officials deal with cases that require time, familiarity with the law, with the files and industry knowledge. In my personal view, doing away with experience and with some of the DG’s top assets could be counterproductive.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

6 September 2018 at 8:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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