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From Europe, with Love: Lessons in Regulatory Humility Following the DMA Implementation

TOTM The European Union’s implementation of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), whose stated goal is to bring more “fairness” and “contestability” to digital markets, could offer some important . . .

The European Union’s implementation of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), whose stated goal is to bring more “fairness” and “contestability” to digital markets, could offer some important regulatory lessons to those countries around the world that have been rushing to emulate the Old Continent.

Read the full piece here.

 

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Gus Hurwitz on Sports and Cord-Cutting

Presentations & Interviews ICLE Director of Law & Economics Programs Gus Hurwitz was a guest on The Cyberlaw Podcast, where he discussed big news for cord-cutting sports fans, . . .

ICLE Director of Law & Economics Programs Gus Hurwitz was a guest on The Cyberlaw Podcast, where he discussed big news for cord-cutting sports fans, Amazon’s ad-data deal with Reach, a novel Federal Trade Commission case brought against Blackbaud, the Federal Communications Commission’s ban on AI-generated voice cloning in robocalls, and South Korea’s pause on implementation of its anti-monopoly platform act. Audio of the full episode is embedded below.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

ICLE Response to the Australian Competition Taskforce’s Merger Reform Consultation

Regulatory Comments I. About the International Center for Law & Economics The International Center for Law & Economics (“ICLE”) is a nonprofit, non-partisan global research and policy . . .

I. About the International Center for Law & Economics

The International Center for Law & Economics (“ICLE”) is a nonprofit, non-partisan global research and policy center founded with the goal of building the intellectual foundations for sensible, economically grounded policy. ICLE promotes the use of law & economics methodologies to inform public-policy debates and has longstanding expertise in the evaluation of antitrust law and policy.

ICLE’s interest is to ensure that antitrust law remains grounded in clear rules, established precedent, a record of evidence, and sound economic analysis. Some of the proposals in the Competition Taskforce’s Reform Consultation (“Consultation”) threaten to erode such foundations by, among other things, shifting toward merger analysis that focuses on the number of competitors, rather than the impact on competition, as well as reversing the burden of proof; curtailing rights of defense; and adopting an unduly strict approach to mergers in particular sectors. Our overriding concern is that intellectually coherent antitrust policy must focus on safeguarding competition and the interests of consumers.

In its ongoing efforts to contribute to ensuring that antitrust law in general, and merger control in particular, remain tethered to sound principles of economics, law, and due process, ICLE has submitted responses to consultations and published papers, articles, and reports in a number of jurisdictions, including the European Union, the United States, Brazil, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and India. These and other publications are available on ICLE’s website.[1]

II. Summary of Key Points

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Competition Taskforce’s Consultation. Our comments below mirror the structure of the main body of the Consultation. Section by section, we suggest improvements to the Consultation’s approach, as well as citing background law and economics that we believe the Treasury should keep in mind as it considers whether to move forward with merger reform in Australia.

  • Question 6 — Australia should not skew its merger regime toward blocking mergers under conditions of uncertainty. Uncertainty is endemic in merger control. Since the vast majority of mergers are procompetitive—including mergers in what is commonly called the “digital sector”—an error-cost-analysis approach would suggest that false negatives are preferable to false positives. Concrete evidence of a likely substantial lessening of competition post-merger should continue to be the decisive factor in decisions to block a merger, not uncertainty about its effects.
  • Question 8 — While potential competition and so-called “killer acquisitions” are important theories for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (“ACCC”) to consider when engaging in merger review, neither suggest that the burden of proof needed to reject a merger should be changed, nor do they warrant an overhaul of the existing merger regime. Furthermore, given the paucity of evidence finding “killer acquisitions” in the real world, it is highly unlikely that any economic woes that Australia currently faces can be blamed on an epidemic of killer acquisitions or acquisitions of potential/nascent competitors. If the Treasury is going to adopt any rules to address these theories of harm, it should do so in a manner consistent with the error-cost framework (see reply to Question 6) and should not undercut the benefits and incentives that startup firms derive from the prospect of being acquired by a larger player.
  • Question 9 — Merger control should remain tethered to the analysis of competitive effects within the framework of the significant lessening of competition test (“SLC test”), rather than seeking to foster any particular market structure. Market structure is, at best, an imperfect proxy for competitive effects and, at worst, a deeply misleading one. As such, it should remain just one tool among many in merger analysis, rather than an end in itself.
  • Question 13 — In deciding whether to impose a mandatory-notification regime, Australia should be guided by error-cost considerations, and not merely seek to replicate international trends. While there are sound reasons to prefer a system of mandatory-merger notifications, the Treasury cannot ignore the costs of filing mergers or of reviewing them. It should be noted that some studies suggest that voluntary merger notification may achieve objectives similar to those achieved by compulsory systems at lower cost to the merging parties, as well as to the regulator. If the Treasury nonetheless decides to impose mandatory notification, it should seek to contain unnecessary costs by setting a reasonable turnover threshold, thereby filtering out transactions with little-to-no potential for anticompetitive harm.
  • Question 17 —Australian merger control should require that a decisionmaker be satisfied that a merger would likely and substantially lessen competition before blocking it, rather than effectively reversing the burden of proof by requiring that merging parties demonstrate that it would not. In a misguided attempt to shift the costs of erroneous decisions from the public to the merging parties, the ACCC’s proposal forgets that false positives also impose costs on the public, most notably in the form of foregone consumer benefits. In addition, since the vast majority of mergers are procompetitive, including mergers in the digital sector, there is no objective empirical basis for reversing the burden of proof along the proposed lines.
  • Question 18 — The SLC test should not be amended to include acquisitions that “entrench, materially increase or materially extend a position of substantial market power.” First, the Consultation seems to conflate instances of anticompetitive leveraging with cases where an incumbent in one market enters an adjacent one. The latter is a powerful source of competition and, as such, should not be curtailed. The former is already covered by the SLC test, which equips authorities with sufficient tools to curb the misuse of market power post-merger. Third, it is unclear what the term “materially” would mean in the proposed context, or what it would add to the SLC test. Australian merger control already interprets “substantial” lessening of competition to mean “material in a relative sense and meaningful.” Thus, the term “materially” risks injecting unnecessary uncertainty and indeterminacy into the system.
  • Question 19 — As follows from our response to Question 9, Section 50(3) should not be amended to yield an increased focus on changes to market structure as a result of a merger. It is also unclear what is gained from removing the factors in Section 50(3). More than a “modernization” (as the Consultation calls it), this appears to be a redundancy, as the listed factors already significantly overlap with those commonly used under the SLC test. To the extent that these factors place a “straitjacket” on courts (though in principle they are sufficiently broad and flexible), they could be removed, however, so long as merger analysis remained tethered to the SLC test and respects its overarching logic.
  • Question 20 — Non-competition public benefits should play a limited role in merger control. Competition authorities are, in principle, ill-suited to rank, weigh, and prioritize complex and incommensurable goals and values. The injection of public-benefits analysis into merger review magnifies the risk of discretionary and arbitrary decision making.

III. Consultation Responses

A.   Question 6

Is Australia’s merger regime ‘skewed towards clearance’? Would it be more appropriate for the framework to skew towards blocking mergers where there is sufficient uncertainty about competition impacts?

In order for a merger to be blocked in Australia, it must be demonstrated that the merger is likely to substantially lessen competition. In the context of Section 50, “likely” means a “real commercial likelihood.”[2] Furthermore, a “substantial” lessening of competition need not be “large or weighty… but one that is ‘real or of substance… and thereby meaningful and relevant to the competitive process.’”[3] This does not set an inordinately high bar for authorities to clear.

In a sense, however, the ACCC is right when it says that Australian merger control is “skewed towards clearance.”[4] This is because all merger regimes are “skewed” toward clearance. Even in jurisdictions that require mandatory notifications, only a fraction of mergers—typically, those above a certain turnover threshold—are examined by competition authorities. Only a small percentage of these transactions are subject to conditional approval, and an even smaller percentage still are blocked or abandoned.[5] This means that the vast majority of mergers are allowed to proceed as intended by the parties, and for good reason. As the ACCC itself and the Consultation note, most mergers do not raise competition concerns.[6]

But while partially accurate, this statement is only half true. Most mergers are, in fact, either benign or procompetitive. Indeed, mergers are often an effective way to reduce transaction costs and generate economies of scale in production,[7] which can enable companies to bolster innovation post-merger. According to Robert Kulick and Andrew Card, mergers are responsible for increasing research and development expenditure by as much as $13.5 billion annually.[8] And as Francine Lafontaine and Margaret Slade point out in the context of vertical mergers:

In spite of the lack of unified theory, over all a fairly clear empirical picture emerges. The data appear to be telling us that efficiency considerations overwhelm anticompetitive motives in most contexts. Furthermore, even when we limit attention to natural monopolies or tight oligopolies, the evidence of anticompetitive harm is not strong. [9]

While vertical mergers are generally thought to be less likely to harm competition, this does not cast horizontal mergers in a negative light. It is true that the effects of horizontal mergers are empirically less well-documented. But while there is some evidence that horizontal mergers can reduce consumer welfare, at least in the short run, the long-run effects appear to be strongly positive. Dario Focarelli and Fabio Panetta find:

…strong evidence that, although consolidation does generate adverse price changes, these are temporary. In the long run, efficiency gains dominate over the market power effect, leading to more favorable prices for consumers.[10]

Furthermore, and in line with the above, some studies have found that horizontal merger enforcement has even harmed consumers.[11]

It is therefore only natural that merger regimes should be “skewed” toward clearance. But this is no more a flaw of the system than is the presumption that cartels are harmful. Instead, it reflects the well-documented and empirically grounded insight that most mergers do not raise competition concerns and that there are myriad legitimate, procompetitive reasons for firms to merge.[12]

It also reflects the principle that, since errors are inevitable, merger control should prefer Type II over Type I errors. Indeed, legal decision making and enforcement under uncertainty are always difficult and always potentially costly.[13] Given the limits of knowledge, there is always a looming risk of error.[14] Where enforcers or judges are trying to ascertain the likely effects of a business practice, such as a merger, their forward-looking analysis will seek to infer anticompetitive conduct from limited information.[15] To mitigate risks, antitrust law, generally, and merger control, specifically, must rely on certain heuristics to reduce the direct and indirect costs of the error-cost framework,[16] whose objective is to ensure that regulatory rules, enforcement decisions, and judicial outcomes minimize the expected cost of (1) erroneous condemnation and deterrence of beneficial conduct (“false positives,” or “Type I errors”); (2) erroneous allowance and under-deterrence of harmful conduct (“false negatives,” or “Type II errors”); and (3) the costs of administering the system.

Accordingly, “skewing” the merger-analysis framework toward blocking mergers could, in theory, be appropriate where the enforcer or the courts knew that mergers are always or almost always harmful (as in the case of, e.g., cartels). But we have already established that the opposite is, in fact, true: most mergers are either benign or procompetitive. The Consultation’s caveat that this would apply only in cases where “there is sufficient uncertainty about competition impacts” does not carve out a convincing exception to this principle. This is particularly true given that, in a forward-looking exercise, there is, by definition, always some degree of uncertainty about future outcomes. Given that most mergers are procompetitive or benign, any lingering uncertainty should, in any case, be resolved in favor of allowing a merger, not blocking it.

Concrete evidence of a likely substantial lessening of competition post-merger should therefore continue to be the decisive factor in decisions to block a merger, not uncertainty about its effects (see also the response to Question 17). Under uncertainty, the error-cost framework when applied to antitrust leads in most cases to a preference of Type II over Type I errors, and mergers are no exception.[17] The three main reasons can be summarized as follows. First, “mistaken inferences and the resulting false condemnations are especially costly, because they often chill the very conduct the antitrust laws are designed to protect.”[18] The aforementioned procompetitive benefits of mergers, coupled with the general principle that parties should have the latitude in a free-market economy to buy and sell to and from whomever they choose, are cases in point. Second, false positives may be more difficult to correct, especially in light of the weight of judicial precedent.[19] Third, the costs of a wrongly permitted monopoly are small compared to the costs of competition wrongly condemned.[20] As Lionel Robbins once said: monopoly tends to break, tariffs tend to stick.[21] The same is applicable to prohibited mergers.

In sum, Australia should not skew its merger regime toward blocking mergers under uncertainty.

B.   Question 8

Is there evidence of acquisitions by large firms (such as serial or creeping acquisitions, acquisitions of nascent competitors, ‘killer acquisitions’, and acquisitions by digital platforms) having anti-competitive effects in Australia?

We do not know whether there have been any such cases in Australia. We would, however, like to offer more general commentary on the relevance of nascent competition and killer acquisitions in the context of merger control, especially as concerns digital platforms.

One of the most important concerns about acquisitions by the major incumbent tech platforms is that they can be used to eliminate potential competitors that currently do not compete, but could leverage their existing network to compete in the future—a potential that incumbents can better identify than can competition enforcers.[22]

As the Furman Review states:

In mergers involving digital companies, the harms will often centre around the loss of potential competition, which the target company in an adjacent market may provide in the future, once their services develop.[23]

Similar concerns have been raised in the Stigler Report,[24] the expert report commissioned by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager for the European Commission,[25] and in the ACCC’s own Fifth Interim Report of the Digital Platform Services Inquiry.[26] Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram is frequently cited as a paradigmatic example of this phenomenon.

There are, however, a range of issues with using this concern as the basis for a more restrictive merger regime. First, while doubtless this kind of behavior is a risk, and competition enforcers should weigh potential competition as part of the range of considerations in any merger review, potential-competition theories often prove too much. If one firm with a similar but fundamentally different product poses a potential threat to a purchaser, there may be many other firms with similar, but fundamentally different, products that do, too.

If Instagram, with its photo feed and social features, posed a potential or nascent competitive threat to Facebook when Facebook acquired it, then so must other services with products that are clearly distinct from Facebook but have social features. In that case, Facebook faces potential competition from other services like TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter (X), and Snapchat, all of which have services that are at least as similar to Facebook’s as Instagram’s. In this case, the loss of a single, relatively small potential competitor out of many cannot be counted as a significant loss for competition, since so many other potential and actual competitors remain.

The most compelling version of the potential and nascent competition argument is that offered by Steven Salop, who argues that since a monopolist’s profits will tend to exceed duopolists’ combined profits, a monopolist will normally be willing and able to buy a would-be competitor for more than the competitor would be able to earn if it entered the market and competed directly, earning only duopoly profits.[27]

While theoretically elegant, this model has limited use in understanding real-world scenarios. First, it assumes that entry is only possible once—i.e., that after a monopolist purchases a would-be competitor, it can breathe easy. But if repeat entry is possible, such that another firm can enter the market at some point after an acquisition has taken place, the monopolist will be engaged in a potentially endless series of acquisitions, sharing its monopoly profits with a succession of would-be duopolists until there is no monopoly profit left.

Second, the model does not predict what share of monopoly profits would go to the entrant, as compared to the monopolist. The entrant could hold out for nearly all of the monopolist’s profit share, adjusted for the entrant’s expected success in becoming a duopolist.

Third, apart from being a poor strategy for preserving monopoly profits—since these may largely accrue to the entrants, under this model—this could lead to stronger incentives for entry than in a scenario where the duopolists were left to compete with one another, leading to more startup formation and entry overall.

Finally, acquisitions of potential competitors, far from harming competition, often benefit consumers. The acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, for example, brought the photo-editing technology that Instagram had developed to a much larger market of Facebook users, and provided those services with a powerful monetization mechanism that was otherwise unavailable to Instagram.[28] As Ben Sperry has written:

Facebook has helped to build Instagram into the product it is today, a position that was far from guaranteed, and that most of the commentators who mocked the merger did not even imagine was possible. Instagram’s integration into the Facebook platform in fact did benefit users, as evidenced by the rise of Instagram and other third-party photo apps on Facebook’s platform.[29]

In other words, many supposedly anticompetitive acquisitions appear that way only because of improvements made to the acquired business by the acquiring platform.[30]

As for “killer acquisitions,” this refers to scenarios in which incumbents acquire a firm just to shut down pipelines of products that compete closely with their own. By eliminating these products and research lines, it is feared that “killer acquisitions” could harm consumers by eliminating would-be competitors and their products from the market, and thereby eliminating an innovative rival. A recent study by Marc Ivaldi, Nicolas Petit, and Selçukhan Ünekbas, however, recommends caution surrounding the killer acquisition “hype.” First, despite the disproportionate attention they have been paid in policy circles, “killer acquisitions” are an exceedingly rare phenomenon. In pharmaceuticals, where the risk is arguably the highest, it is they account for between 5.3% and 7.4% of all acquisitions, while in digital markets, the rate is closer to 1 in 175.[31] The authors ultimately find that:

Examining acquisitions by large technology firms in ICT industries screened by the European Commission, [we find] that acquired products are often not killed but scaled, post-merger industry output demonstrably increases, and the relevant markets remain dynamic post-transaction. These findings cast doubt on contemporary calls for tightening of merger control policies.[32]

Thus, acquisitions of potential competitors and smaller rivals more often than not lead to valuable synergies, efficiencies, and the successful scaling of products and integration of technologies.

But there is an arguably even more important reason why the ACCC should not preventively restrict companies’ ability to acquire smaller rivals (or potential rivals). To safeguard incentives to invest and innovate, it is essential that buyouts remain a viable “way out” for startups and small players. As ICLE has argued previously:

Venture capitalists invest on the understanding that many of the businesses in their portfolio will likely fail, but that the returns from a single successful exit could be large enough to offset any failures. Unsurprisingly, this means that exit considerations are the most important factor for VCs when valuing a company. A US survey of VCs found 89% considered exits important and 48% considered it the most important factor. This is particularly important for later-stage VCs.”[33] (emphasis added)

Indeed, the “killer” label obfuscates the fact that acquisitions are frequently a desired exit strategy for founders, especially founders of startups and small companies. Investors and entrepreneurs hope to make money from the products into which they are putting their time and money. While that may come from the product becoming wildly successful and potentially displacing an incumbent, this outcome can be exceedingly difficult to achieve. The prospect of acquisition increases the possibility that these entrepreneurs can earn a return, and thus magnifies their incentives to build and innovate.[34]

In sum, while potential competition and so-called killer acquisitions are important theories for the ACCC to consider when engaging in merger review, neither theory suggests that the burden of proof needed to reject a merger should be changed, much less warranting an overhaul of the existing merger regime. Furthermore, given the paucity of “killer acquisitions” in the real world, it is highly unlikely that any economic woes that Australia currently faces are due to an epidemic of killer acquisitions or acquisitions of potential/nascent competitors. Indeed, a recent paper by Jonathan Barnett finds the concerns around startup acquisitions to have been vastly exaggerated, while their benefits have been underappreciated:

A review of the relevant body of evidence finds that these widely-held views concerning incumbent/startup acquisitions rest on meager support, confined to ambiguous evidence drawn from a small portion of the total universe of acquisitions in the pharmaceutical market and theoretical models of acquisition transactions in information technology markets. Moreover, the emergent regulatory and scholarly consensus fails to take into account the rich body of evidence showing the critical function played by incumbent/startup acquisitions in supplying a monetization mechanism that induces venture-capital investment and promotes startup entry in technology markets.

In addition:

Proposed changes to merger review standards would disrupt these efficient transactional mechanisms and are likely to have counterproductive effects on competitive conditions in innovation markets.[35]

Accordingly, if the Treasury is going to adopt any rules to address these theories of harm, it should do so in a way consistent with the error-cost framework (see reply to Question 6); that does not undercut the benefits and incentives that derive from the prospect of acquisition by a larger player; and that accurately reflects the real (modest) anticompetitive threat posed by killer acquisitions, rather than one animated by dystopic hyperbole.[36]

C.   Question 9

Should Australia’s merger regime focus more on acquisitions by firms with market power, and/or the effect of the acquisitions on the overall structure of the market?

Merger control should remain tethered to analysis of competitive effects within the framework of the SLC test, rather than on fostering any particular market structure. Market structure is, at best, an imperfect proxy for competitive effects and, at worst, a misleading one. As such, it should be considered just one tool among many for scrutinizing mergers, not an end in itself.

To start, the assumption that “too much” concentration is harmful presumes both that the structure of a market is what determines economic outcomes, and that anyone knows what the “right” amount of concentration is.[37] But as economists have understood since at least the 1970s, (despite an extremely vigorous, but ultimately futile, effort to show otherwise), market structure is not outcome determinative.[38] As Harold Demsetz has written:

Once perfect knowledge of technology and price is abandoned, [competitive intensity] may increase, decrease, or remain unchanged as the number of firms in the market is increased.… [I]t is presumptuous to conclude… that markets populated by fewer firms perform less well or offer competition that is less intense.[39]

This view is well-supported, and held by scholars across the political spectrum.[40] To take one prominent recent example, professors Fiona Scott Morton (deputy assistant attorney general for economics in the U.S. Justice Department Antitrust Division under President Barack Obama), Martin Gaynor (former director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Economics under President Obama), and Steven Berry surveyed the industrial-organization literature and found that presumptions based on measures of concentration are unlikely to provide sound guidance for public policy:

In short, there is no well-defined “causal effect of concentration on price,” but rather a set of hypotheses that can explain observed correlations of the joint outcomes of price, measured markups, market share, and concentration.… Our own view, based on the well-established mainstream wisdom in the field of industrial organization for several decades, is that regressions of market outcomes on measures of industry structure like the Herfindahl Hirschman Index should be given little weight in policy debates.[41]

The absence of correlation between increased concentration and both anticompetitive causes and deleterious economic effects is also demonstrated by a recent, influential empirical paper by Shanat Ganapati. Ganapati finds that the increase in industry concentration in U.S. non-manufacturing sectors between 1972 and 2012 was “related to an offsetting and positive force—these oligopolies are likely due to technical innovation or scale economies. [The] data suggests that national oligopolies are strongly correlated with innovations in productivity.”[42] In the end, Ganapati found, increased concentration resulted from a beneficial growth in firm size in productive industries that “expand[s] real output and hold[s] down prices, raising consumer welfare, while maintaining or reducing [these firms’] workforces.”[43] Sam Peltzman’s research on increasing concentration in manufacturing finds that it has, on average, been associated with both increased productivity growth and widening margins of price over input costs. These two effects offset each other, leading to “trivial” net price effects.[44]

Further, the presence of harmful effects in industries with increased concentration cannot readily be extrapolated to other industries. Thus, while some studies have plausibly shown that an increase in concentration in a particular case led to higher prices (although this is true in only a minority of the relevant literature), assuming the same result from an increase in concentration in other industries or other contexts is simply not justified:

The most plausible competitive or efficiency theory of any particular industry’s structure and business practices is as likely to be idiosyncratic to that industry as the most plausible strategic theory with market power.[45]

As Chad Syverson recently summarized:

Perhaps the deepest conceptual problem with concentration as a measure of market power is that it is an outcome, not an immutable core determinant of how competitive an industry or market is… As a result, concentration is worse than just a noisy barometer of market power. Instead, we cannot even generally know which way the barometer is oriented.[46]

In other words, depending on the nature and dynamics of the market, competition may well be protected under conditions that preserve a certain number of competitors in the relevant market. But competition may also be protected under conditions in which a single winner takes all on the merits of their business.[47] It is reductive, and bad policy, to presume that a certain number of competitors is always and everywhere conducive to better economic outcomes, or indicative of anticompetitive harm.

This does not mean that concentration measures have no use in merger enforcement. Instead, it demonstrates that market concentration is often unrelated to antitrust enforcement because it is driven by factors that are endogenous to each industry. In revamping its merger-control rules, Australia should be careful not to rely too heavily on structural presumptions based on concentration measures, as these may be poor indicators of those cases where antitrust enforcement would be most beneficial to consumers.

In sum, market structure should remain only a proxy for determining whether a transaction significantly lessens competition. It should not be at the forefront of merger review. And it should certainly not be the determining factor in deciding whether to block a merger.

D.   Question 13

Should Australia introduce a mandatory notification regime, and what would be the key considerations for designing notification thresholds?

The ACCC has argued that Australia is an “international outlier” in not requiring mandatory notification of mergers.[48] While it is true that most countries with merger-control rules also require mandatory notification of mergers when these exceed a certain threshold, there are also notable examples where this is not the case. For example, the United Kingdom, one of the leading competition jurisdictions in the world, does not require mandatory notification of mergers.

In deciding whether to impose a mandatory-notification regime and accompanying notification thresholds, Australia should not—as a matter of principle—be guided by international trends. International trends may be a useful indicator, but they can also be misleading. Instead, Australia’s decision should be informed by close analysis of error costs. In particular, Australia should seek to understand how a notification regime would affect the balance between Type I and Type II errors in this context. A notification regime would presumably reduce false negatives without necessarily increasing false positives, which is a good outcome.

In its calculation, however, the Treasury cannot ignore the costs of filing mergers and of reviewing them. If designed poorly, mandatory notifications can be a burden for the merging firms, for third parties, and for the reviewing authorities, siphoning resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. It is here where a voluntary-notification regime could have an edge over the alternative. For instance, a study by Chongwoo Choe comparing systems of compulsory pre-merger notification with the Australian system of voluntary pre-merger notification found that:

Thanks to the signaling opportunity that arises when notification is voluntary, voluntary notification leads to lower enforcement costs for the regulator and lower notification costs for the merging parties. Some of the theoretical predictions are supported by exploratory empirical tests using merger data from Australia. Overall, our results suggest that voluntary merger notification may achieve objectives similar to those achieved by compulsory systems at lower costs to the merging parties as well as to the regulator.[49] (emphasis added).

If the Treasury nonetheless decides to mandate merger notification, the next step would be to establish a notification threshold, as it is evident that not all mergers can, or should, be notified to the Australian authorities. Indeed, many mergers may be patently uninteresting from a competition perspective (e.g., one small supermarket in Perth buying another), while others might not have a significant nexus with Australia (e.g., where an international company that does modest business in Australia buys a shop in Spain).[50] Too many merger notifications strain the public’s limited resources and disproportionately affect smaller companies, as these companies are less capable of covering administrative costs and filing fees. To mitigate such unnecessary costs, the Treasury should establish reasonable thresholds that help filter out transactions where the merging parties are unlikely to have significant market power post-merger.

But what constitutes a reasonable threshold? Our view is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Turnover has typically been used as a proxy for a merger’s competitive impact because it offers a first indicator of the parties’ relative position on the market. Despite the Consultation’s claim that “mergers of all sizes are potentially capable of raising competition concerns,”[51] where the parties (and especially the target company) have either no or only negligible turnover in Australia, it is highly unlikely that the merger will significantly lessen competition. If the Treasury decides to impose mandatory notification for mergers, it should therefore consider using a turnover-based threshold.

E.    Question 17

Should Australia’s merger control regime require the decision-maker to be satisfied that a proposed merger:

  • would be likely to substantially lessen competition before blocking it; or

  • would not be likely to substantially lessen competition before clearing it?

The second option would essentially reverse the burden of proof in merger control. Instead of requiring the authority to prove that a merger would substantially lessen competition, it would fall on the merging parties to prove a negative—i.e., that the merger would not be likely to substantially lessen competition.

The ACCC has made this proposal because it:

Means that the risk of error is borne by the merger parties rather than the public. In the cases where this difference matters (for example where there is uncertainty or a number of possible future outcomes), the default position should be to leave the risk with the merger parties, not to put at risk the public interest in maintaining the state of competition into the future.[52]

The Consultation sympathizes. It recognizes that “there are trade-offs between the risks of false positives and false negatives in designing a merger test,” but contends that, while both lead to lower output, higher prices, lower quality, and less innovation, “allowing anti-competitive mergers means that merging parties benefit at the expense of consumers.”[53]

But this argument is based on a flawed premise. The risk of error—whether Type I or Type II error—is always borne by the public. The public is harmed by false positives in at least two ways. First, and most directly, it suffers harm through the foregone benefits that could have accrued from a procompetitive merger. As we have shown in our responses to Questions 6, 8, and 9, these benefits are common and can be economically substantial. Second, but no less important, false positives chill merger activity and discourage future mergers. This also negatively affects the public.

The extent to which chilling merger activity harms the public has, however, been obfuscated by a contrived dichotomy between “the public” and the merging parties, which taints the ACCC’s argumentation and skews the Conclusion. The merging parties are also part of society and, therefore, also part of “the public.” An unduly restrictive merger regime that prioritizes avoiding false negatives over false positives harms consumers. But it also harms the “public” more broadly, insofar as anyone could, potentially, have a direct interest in a merger, either as a stakeholder or a party to that merger.

In addition, a regime that requires companies to prove that a deal is not harmful (with the usual caveats about the difficulty of proving a negative) before being allowed to proceed unduly restricts economic freedom and the rights of defense—both of which are very “public” benefits, as everyone, in principle, benefits from them. These elements should also be taken into consideration when weighing the costs and benefits of Type I and Type II errors. That balancing test should, in our view, generally favor false negatives, as argued in our response to Question 6.

Finally, there is no objective, material justification for “[shifting] the default position from allowing mergers to proceed where there is uncertainty [which is, by definition, always in a merger review process that is forward-looking] to a position where, if there is sufficient uncertainty about the effects of a merger, it would not be cleared.” As discussed in our answer to Question 6, the vast majority of mergers are procompetitive, including mergers in the digital sector, or mergers that involve digital platforms. This presumption is reflected in the requirement, common across antitrust jurisdictions, that enforcers must make a prima facie case that a merger will be anticompetitive before the merging parties have a duty to respond. There has been no major empirical finding or theoretical revelation in recent years that would justify reversing this burden of proof. Indeed, any change along these lines would be guided by ephemeral political and industrial-policy exigencies, rather than by robust principles of law and economics. In our view, these are not sound reasons for flipping merger review on its head.

In sum, Australian merger control should require that a decisionmaker be satisfied that a merger would be likely to substantially lessen competition before blocking it.

F.    Question 18

Should Australia’s substantial lessening of competition test be amended to include acquisitions that ‘entrench, materially increase or materially extend a position of substantial market power’?

According to the ACCC:

Under the current substantial lessening of competition test, it may be difficult to stop acquisitions that lead to a dominant firm extending their market power into related or adjacent markets.[54]

The ACCC imagines this is a problem, particularly in digital markets. Preventing dominant firms from leveraging their market power in one market to restrict competition in an adjacent one is a legitimate concern. We should, however, be clear about what is meant by “materially increase or materially extend a position of substantial market power.”

Merger control should not, as a matter of principle, seek to prevent incumbents from entering adjacent markets. Large firms moving into the core business of competitors from adjacent markets often represents the biggest source of competition for incumbents, as it is often precisely these firms who have the capacity to contest competitors’ dominance in their core businesses effectively. This scenario is prevalent in digital markets, where incumbents must enter multiple adjacent markets, most often by supplying highly differentiated products, complements, or “new combinations” of existing offerings.[55]

Moreover, it is unclear why the SLC test in its current state is insufficient to curb the misuse of market power. The SLC test is a standard used by regulatory authorities to assess the legality of proposed mergers and acquisitions. Simply put, it examines whether a prospective merger is likely to substantially lessen competition in a given market, with the purpose of preventing mergers that increase prices, reduce output, limit consumer choice, or stifle innovation as a result of a decrease in competition.

The SLC test is one of the two major tests deployed by competition authorities to determine whether a merger is anticompetitive, the other being the dominance test. Most merger-control regimes today use the SLC test, and for two good reasons. The first is that, under the dominance test, it is difficult to assess coordinated effects and non-horizontal mergers.[56] The other, mentioned in the Consultation, is that the SLC test allows for more robust effects-based economic analysis.[57]

The SLC test examines likely coordinated and non-coordinated effects in all three types of mergers: horizontal, vertical, and conglomerate. Horizontal mergers may substantially lessen competition by eliminating a significant competitive constraint on one or more firms, or by changing the nature of competition such that firms that had not previously coordinating their behavior will be more likely to do so. Vertical and conglomerate mergers tend to pose less of a risk to competition.[58] Still, there are facts and circumstances under which they can substantially lessen competition by, for example, foreclosing rivals from necessary inputs, supplies, or markets. These outcomes will often be associated with an increase in market power. As the OECD has written:

The focus of the SLC test lies predominantly on the impact of the merger on existing competitive constraints and on measuring market power post-merger.[59]

In other words, the SLC test already accounts for increases in market power that are capable and likely of harming competition. As to whether the “entrenchment” of market power—in line with the 2022 amendments to Canadian competition law—should be added to the SLC test, there is no reason to believe that this is either necessary or appropriate in the Australian context. The 2022 amendments to the Canadian competition law mentioned in the Consultation[60] largely align Canada’s merger control with its abuse-of-dominance provision, which prohibits anti-competitive activities that damage or eliminate competitors and that “preserve, entrench or enhance their market power.”[61] But in Australia, Section 46 (the equivalent of the Canadian abuse-of-dominance provision) prohibits conduct “that has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition.” The proposed amendment would thus create a discrepancy between merger control and Section 46, where the latter would remain tethered to an SLC test, and the former would shift to a new standard. Additionally, since it remains unclear what the results of Canada’s 2022 merger-control amendments have been or will be, it would be wiser for Australia to adopt a “wait and see” approach before rushing to replicate them.

Lastly, there is the question of defining “materiality” in the context of an increase or entrenchment of market power. Currently, Section 50 prohibits mergers that “substantially lessen competition,” with no mention of materiality.[62] The Merger Guidelines do, however, state that:

The term “substantial” has been variously interpreted as meaning real or of substance, not merely discernible but material in a relative sense and meaningful.[63] (emphasis added)

The proposed amendment follows suit, referring to the concepts of “material increase” and “material extension” of market power. What does this mean? How does a “material increase” in market power differ from a non-material one? In its comments to the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (“AICOA”), the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Law Section criticized the bill for using amorphous terms such as “fairness,” “preferencing,” and “materiality,” or the “intrinsic” value of a product. Because these concepts were not defined either in the legislation or in existing case law, the ABA argued that they injected variability and indeterminacy into how the legislation would be administered.[64] The same argument applies here.

Accordingly, the SLC test should not be amended to include acquisitions that “entrench, materially increase or materially extend a position of substantial market power.”

G.   Question 19

Should the merger factors in section 50(3) be amended to increase the focus on changes to market structure as a result of a merger? Or should the merger factors be removed entirely?

On market structure, see our responses to Question 9 and Question 18.

The merger factors under Section 50(3) already overlap with the factors typically used under the SLC test. These include the structure of related markets; the merger’s underlying economic rationale; market accessibility for potential entrants; the market shares of involved undertakings; whether the market is capacity constrained; the presence of competitors (existing and potential); consumer behavior (the willingness and ability of consumers to switch to alternative products); the likely effect on consumers; the financial investment required for market entry; and the market share necessary for a buyer or seller to achieve profitability or economies of scale.

Similarly, Section 50(3) contains a list of the factors to be considered under the SLC test, including barriers to entry, the intensity of competition on the market, the likely effects on price and profit margins, and the extent of vertical integration, among others. Structural questions, such as the degree of concentration on the market, are also one of the listed factors under Section 50(3).

As a result, it is unclear how eliminating the merger factors would transform the SLC test, or why there should be more emphasis on market structure (on the proper role of market structure in merger-control analysis, see our answers to Question 9 and Question 18).

In sum, Section 50(3) should not be amended to increase the focus on changes to market structure as a result of a merger. It is also not clear what is gained from removing the factors in Section 50(3). More than a “modernization” (as the Consultation calls it),[65] the change appears redundant. To the extent that these factors place a “straitjacket” on courts (though, in principle, they are broad enough to be sufficiently flexible), however, they could be removed, so long as merger analysis remains tethered to the SLC test.

H.  Question 20

 Should a public benefit test be retained if a new merger control regime was introduced?

Antitrust law, including merger control, is not a “Swiss Army knife.”[66] Public-interest considerations should generally have limited to no weight in merger analysis, except in extremely specific cases proscribed by the law (e.g., public security and defense considerations). Expanding merger analysis to encompass non-competition concerns risks undermining the rule of law, diminishing legal certainty, and harming consumers.

In Australia, the Competition Act currently does not expressly limit the range of public benefits (or detriments) that may be taken into account by the ACCC when deciding whether to block or allow a merger (this includes not limiting them to those that address market failure or improve economic efficiency).[67] Thus, “anything of value to the community generally, any contribution to the aims pursued by the society” could, in theory, be considered a public benefit for the purpose of the public-benefit test.[68] The authorization regime also does not require the ACCC to quantify the level of public benefits and detriments.

Competition authorities are, in principle, ill-suited to rank, weigh, and prioritize complex, incommensurable goals and values against one other. They lack the expertise to meaningfully evaluate political, social, environmental, and other goals. They are independent agencies with a strict, narrow mandate, not political decision makers tasked with redistributing wealth or guiding society forward. Requiring them to consider broad public considerations when deciding on mergers magnifies the risk of discretionary and arbitrary decision making and undercuts legal certainty. This is as true for blocking mergers on the basis of public detriments as it is for allowing them on the basis of public benefits. By contrast, the consumer-welfare standard, which forms the basis of the SLC, is properly understood as:

Offer[ing] a tractable test that is broad enough to contemplate a variety of evidence related to consumer welfare but also sufficiently objective and clear to cabin discretion and honor the principle of the rule of law. Perhaps most significantly, it is inherently an economic approach to antitrust that benefits from new economic learning and is capable of evaluating an evolving set of commercial practices and business models.[69]

Consequently, we recommend that the public-interest test be jettisoned from merger analysis, or at least very narrowly circumscribed, if a new merger-control regime is introduced in Australia.

I.      Question 24

What is the preferred option or combination of elements outlined above? What implementation considerations would need to be taken into account?

In our opinion, and based on the arguments espoused in this submission, the best options would be as follows:

[1] International Center for Law & Economics, https://laweconcenter.org.

[2] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Pacific National Pty Limited [2020] FCAFC 77, [246].

[3] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Pacific National Pty Limited [2020] FCAFC 77, [104].

[4] Outline to Treasury: ACCC’s Proposals for Merger Reform, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (2023), 5, 8, available at https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/accc-submission-on-preliminary-views-on-options-for-merger-control-process.pdf.

[5] For example, in the EU, 94% of mergers are cleared without commitments, whereas only about 6% are allowed with remedies, and less than 0.5% of mergers are blocked or withdrawn by the parties. See Joanna Piechucka, Tomaso Duso, Klaus Gugler, & Pauline Affeldt, Using Compensating Efficiencies to Assess EU Merger Policy, VoxEU (10 Jan. 2022), https://cepr.org/voxeu/columns/using-compensating-efficiencies-assess-eu-merger-policy.

[6] Consultation, 4; ACCC 2023: 2, point 8e.

[7] Ronald Coase, The Nature of the Firm, 4(16) Economica 386-405 (Nov. 1937).

[8] Robert Kulick & Andre Card, Mergers, Industries, and Innovation: Evidence from R&D Expenditure and Patent Applications, NERA Economic Consulting (Feb. 2023), available at https://www.uschamber.com/assets/documents/NERA-Mergers-and-Innovation-Feb-2023.pdf.

[9] Francine Lafontaine & Margaret Slade, Vertical Integration and Firm Boundaries: The Evidence, 45(3) Journal of Economic Literature 677 (Sep. 2007).

[10] Dario Focarelli & Fabio Panetta, Are Mergers Beneficial to Consumers? Evidence from the Market for Bank Deposits, 93(4) American Economic Review 1152 (Sep. 2003).

[11] B. Espen Eckbo & Peggy Wier, Antimerger Policy Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act: A Reexamination of the Market Power Hypothesis, 28(1) Journal of Law & Economics 121 (Apr. 1985).

[12] See, e.g., in the context of tech mergers: Sam Bowman & Sam Dumitriu, Better Together: The Procompetitive Effects of Mergers in Tech, The Entrepreneurs Network & International Center for Law & Economics (Oct. 2021), available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/BetterTogether.pdf.

[13] Geoffrey A. Manne, Error Costs in Digital Markets, in Joshua D. Wright & Douglas H. Ginsburg (eds.), The Global Antitrust Institute Report on the Digital Economy, 33-108 (2020).

[14] Robert H. Mnookin & Lewis Kornhauser, Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce, 88(5) Yale Law Journal 950-97, 968 (Apr. 1979).

[15] See, e.g., in the context of predatory pricing, Paul L. Joskow & Alvin K. Klevorick, A Framework for Analyzing Predatory Pricing Policy, 89(2) Yale Law Journal 213-70 (Dec. 1979).

[16] Manne, supra note 13, at 34, 41.

[17] Id.

[18] Verizon Comm’ns Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398, 414 (2004) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 594 (1986)).

[19] Frank H. Easterbrook, The Limits of Antitrust, 63(1) Texas Law Review 1-40, 2-3, 15-16 (Aug. 1984).

[20] Id., (“Other things equal, we should prefer the error of tolerating questionable conduct, which imposes losses over a part of the range of output, to the error of condemning beneficial conduct, which imposes losses over the whole range of output.”)

[21] Lionel Robbins, Economic Planning and International Order, 116, (1937).

[22] This section is adapted, in part, from Bowman & Dumitriu, supra note 12.

[23] Jason Furman, et al., Unlocking Digital Competition: Report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel (Mar. 2019), 98, available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5c88150ee5274a230219c35f/unlocking_digital_competition_furman_review_web.pdf (“Furman Review”).

[24] Committee for the Study of Digital Platforms Market Structure and Antitrust Subcommittee Report, Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State (2019), 75, 88, available at https://research.chicagobooth.edu/-/media/research/stigler/pdfs/market-structure—report-as-of-15-may-2019.pdf (“Stigler Report”).

[25] Yves-Alexandre de Motjoye, Heike Schweitzer, & Jacques Crémer, Competition Policy for the Digital Era, European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (2019), 110-112, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/21dc175c-7b76-11e9-9f05-01aa75ed71a1/language-en.

[26] See Sections 3.2., 6.2.2. of the Digital Services Platform Inquiry of September 2022, which finds a “high risk of anticompetitive acquisitions by digital platforms,” available at https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20platform%20services%20inquiry.pdf.

[27] Steven Salop, Potential Competition and Antitrust Analysis: Monopoly Profits Exceed Duopoly Profits, Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works 2380 (Apr. 2021), available at https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/2380.

[28] Geoffrey A. Manne, et al., Comments of the International Center for Law & Economics on the FTC & DOJ Draft Merger Guidelines, International Center for Law & Economics (18 Sep. 2023), 38, available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/ICLE-Draft-Merger-Guidelines-Comments-1.pdf.

[29] Ben Sperry, Killer Acquisition of Successful Integration: The Case of the Facebook/Instagram Merger, The Hill (8 Oct. 2020), https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/520211-killer-acquisition-or-successful-integration-the-case-of-the.

[30] Sam Bowman & Geoffrey A. Manne, Killer Acquisitions: An Exit Strategy for Founders, International Center for Law & Economics (Jul. 2020), available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ICLE-tldr-Killer-acquisitions_-an-exit-strategy-for-founders-FINAL.pdf.

[31] See Colleen Cunningham, Florida Ederer, & Song Ma, Killer Acquisitions, 129(3) Journal of Political Economy 649-702 (Mar. 2021); see also Axel Gautier & Joe Lamesch, Mergers in the Digital Economy 54 Information Economics and Policy 100890 (2 Sep. 2020).

[32] Marc Ivaldi, Nicolas Petit, & Selçukhan Ünekbas, Killer Acquisitions in Digital Markets May be More Hype than Reality, VoxEU (15 Sep. 2023), https://cepr.org/voxeu/columns/killer-acquisitions-digital-markets-may-be-more-hype-reality (“The majority of transactions triggered increasing levels of competition in their respective markets.”)

[33] Bowman & Dumitriu, supra note 12.

[34] Bowman & Manne, supra note 30.

[35] Jonathan Barnett, “Killer Acquisitions” Reexamined: Economic Hyperbole in the Age of Populist Antitrust, USC Class Research Paper 23-1 (28 Aug. 2023), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4408546.

[36] On the current wave of dystopian thinking in antitrust law, especially surrounding anything “digital,” see Dirk Auer & Geoffrey A. Manne, Antitrust Dystopia and Antitrust Nostalgia: Alarmist Theories of Harm in Digital Markets and their Origins, 28(4) George Mason Law Review 1281 (9 Sep. 2021).

[37] The response to this question is adapted from Manne, et al., supra note 28.

[38] See, e.g., Harold Demsetz, Industry Structure, Market Rivalry, and Public Policy, 16(1) Journal of Law & Economics 1-9 (Apr. 1973).

[39] See Harold Demsetz, The Intensity and Dimensionality of Competition, in Harold Demsetz, The Economics of the Business Firm: Seven Critical Commentaries 137, 140-41 (1995).

[40] Nathan Miller, et al., On the Misuse of Regressions of Price on the HHI in Merger Review, 10(2) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 248-259 (28 May 2022).

[41] Steven Berry, Martin Gaynor, & Fiona Scott Morton, Do Increasing Markups Matter? Lessons from Empirical Industrial Organization, 33(3) Journal of Economic Perspectives 44-68, 48 (2019).

[42] Shanat Ganapati, Growing Oligopolies, Prices, Output, and Productivity, 13(3) American Economic Journal: Microeconomics 309-327, 324 (Aug. 2021).

[43] Id., 309.

[44] Sam Peltzman, Productivity, Prices and Productivity in Manufacturing: a Demsetzian Perspective, Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics 917, (19 Jul. 2021).

[45] Timothy F. Bresnahan, Empirical Studies of Industries with Market Power, in Richard Schmalensee & Robert Willig (eds.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, 1011, 1053-54 (1989).

[46] Chad Syverson, Macroeconomics and Market Power: Context, Implications, and Open Questions, 33(3) Journal of Economic Perspectives 23-43, 26 (2019).

[47] Nicolas Petit & Lazar Radic, The Necessity of the Consumer Welfare Standard in Antitrust Analysis, ProMarket (18 Dec. 2023), https://www.promarket.org/2023/12/18/the-necessity-of-a-consumer-welfare-standard-in-antitrust-analysis.

[48] ACCC, 2023: 5.

[49] Chongwoo Choe, Compulsory or Voluntary Pre-Merger Notification? Theory and Some Evidence, 28(1) International Journal of Industrial Organization 10-20 (Jan. 2010).

[50] For an overview of the impact of unnecessary transaction costs in merger notification in the context of Ireland, see  Paul K. Gorecki, Merger Control in Ireland: Too Many Unnecessary Notifications?, ESRI Working Paper No. 383 (2011), https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/50090.

[51] Consultation, 24.

[52] ACCC, 2023, 9.

[53] Consultation, 29.

[54] Consultation, 19; ACCC, 2023: 6-7.

[55] Nicolas Petit, Big Tech and the Digital Economy: The Moligopoly Scenario (2020); see also Walid Chaiehoudj, On “Big Tech and the Digital Economy”: Interview with Professor Nicolas Petit, Competition Forum (11 Jan. 2021), https://competition-forum.com/on-big-tech-and-the-digital-economy-interview-with-professor-nicolas-petit.

[56] Standard for Merger Review, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (11 May 2010), 6, available at https://www.oecd.org/daf/competition/45247537.pdf.

[57] Id.; see also Consultation, 31, indicating that “[SLC test] would enable mergers to be assessed on competition criteria but not prescriptively identify which competition criteria should be taken into account. It may permit more flexible application of the law and a greater degree of economic analysis in merger decision-making” (emphasis added).

[58] See, e.g., European Commission, Guidelines on the Assessment of Non-Horizontal Mergers Under the Council Regulation on the Control of Concentrations Between Undertakings (2008/C 265/07), paras. 11-13.

[59] OECD, supra note 56, at 16; see also European Commission, Guidelines on the Assessment of Horizontal Mergers Under the Council Regulation on the Control of Concentrations between Undertakings (2004/C 31/03).

[60] Consultation, 30-31.

[61] Canadian Competition Act, Sections 78 and 79.

[62] Section 44G, however, does mention a “material increase in competition.” (emphasis added).

[63] ACCC, Merger Guidelines (2008), available at https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Merger%20guidelines%20-%20Final.PDF ; see also Australia, Senate 1992, Debates, vol. S157, p. 4776, as cited in the Merger Guidelines (2008).

[64] Geoffrey A. Manne & Lazar Radic, The ABA’s Antitrust Law Section Sounds the Alarm on Klobuchar-Grassley, Truth on the Market (12 May 2022), https://truthonthemarket.com/2022/05/12/the-abas-antitrust-law-section-sounds-the-alarm-on-klobuchar-grassley.

[65] Consultation, 39.

[66] Geoffrey A. Manne, Hearing on “Reviving Competition, Part 5: Addressing the Effects of Economic Concentration on America’s Food Supply,” U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law (19 Jan. 2021), available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Manne-Supply-Chain-Testimony-2021-01-19.pdf.

[67] Out-of-Market Efficiencies in Competition Enforcement – Note by Australia, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (6 Dec. 2023), available at https://one.oecd.org/document/DAF/COMP/WD(2023)102/en/pdf.

[68] Re Queensland Co-Op Milling Association Limited and Defiance Holdings Limited (QCMA) (1976) ATPR 40-012.

[69] Elyse Dorsey, et al., Consumer Welfare & The Rule of Law: The Case Against the New Populist Antitrust Movement, 47 Pepperdine Law Review 861 (1 Jun. 2020).

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Presentations & Interviews ICLE Academic Affiliate Giuseppe Colangelo participated in a webinar hosted by the South Korean law firm Bae, Kim, & Lee exploring the proposed Platform Competition . . .

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In Reforming Its Antitrust Act, Argentina Should Not Ignore Its Institutional Achilles Heel

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Comment of the International Center of Law & Economics Concerning the Proposed Amendments to Korea’s Merger Review Guidelines

Regulatory Comments Introduction The International Center for Law & Economics (“ICLE”) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, global research and policy center—based in Portland. Oregon, United States—founded to build . . .

Introduction

The International Center for Law & Economics (“ICLE”) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, global research and policy center—based in Portland. Oregon, United States—founded to build the intellectual foundations for sensible, economically grounded policy. ICLE promotes the use of law & economics methodologies, and economic findings, to inform public policy. More specifically, ICLE and its affiliate scholars have written extensively about competition and merger policy and routinely engage with policymakers and academics across the globe on these issues.

On November 14, 2023, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (“KFTC”) announced a proposed amendment to its Merger Review Guidelines (“Guidelines”) (“Proposed Amendment”).[1] The Proposed Amendment introduces guidance around how the KFTC assesses mergers in the digital sector and is based on KFTC’s experience in digital merger assessment. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on some of the changes made by the Proposed Amendment.

In our view, the Proposed Amendment departs from established antitrust analytical framework and presume anti-competitive effect for mergers involving online platform businesses.

The amendments raise several important issues, but our comments focus on the eligibility criteria for fast-track review of mergers. Under the existing Merger Review Guidelines, conglomerate mergers involving non-complementary and non-substitutable products are eligible for a fast-track review. However, the Proposed Amendment precludes the applicability of such fast-track review process to transactions that involve online platforms acquiring targets that, in the immediately preceding year, either (i) reached a monthly average of 5 million users (about 10% of Korea’s population) with its products or services, or (ii) invested at least KRW 30 billion in R&D, indicating a high potential for innovation, as long as the merger meets the standard reporting requirements (where one party’s size is KRW 300 billion or more and other party’s size is KRW 30 billion or more).

These changes appear designed to catch certain startup acquisitions that would otherwise escape merger review because the target firm has little to no turnover or assets. In other words, the amendment adds a new threshold that aims to ensure potential “killer acquisitions” are reviewed by enforcers.

But while attempting to catch transactions that may harm consumers is commendable, it is important to understand the important tradeoffs that ensue. Policing mergers is not costless, and any change in merger policy should consider both the benefits and the costs. Agencies will need to devote time and resources to assess mergers that previously were waved through without review. In turn, absent significantly more resources, this will reduce the review time devoted to the most problematic deals. Looking outside the agency, it will also increase the cost of mergers for parties, thereby chilling all deals, even procompetitive deals.

Our comment analyzes these tradeoffs in more detail, ultimately concluding that lower merger-filing thresholds and fewer safe harbors may be inappropriate when viewed through the lens of the error-cost framework. Section I puts the Amendment in a global context, explaining the impetus for and weakness of attempts to bolster merger enforcement around the world. Section II outlines some of the implications of the error-cost framework for merger policy. Section III concludes by putting forward four questions that policymakers should ask themselves when they amend merger-enforcement law and policy.

I.        The Global Crackdown on Mergers

The antitrust policy world has fallen out of love with corporate mergers. After decades of relatively laissez-faire enforcement, spurred in part by the emergence of Chicago school of economics,[2] a growing number of policymakers and scholars are calling for tougher rules to curb corporate acquisitions. But these appeals are premature. There is currently little evidence to suggest that mergers systematically harm consumer welfare. More importantly, scholars fail to identify alternative institutional arrangements that could capture the anticompetitive mergers that evade prosecution without disproportionate false positives and administrative costs. Their proposals thus fail to meet the requirements of the error-cost framework.

Taking a step back, there are multiple reasons for the antitrust community’s about-face. These include concerns about rising market concentration,[3] labor-market monopsony power,[4] and of large corporations undermining the very fabric of democracy.[5] But of these numerous (mis)apprehensions, one has received the lion’s share of scholarly and political attention: a growing number of voices argue that existing merger rules fail to apprehend competitively significant mergers that either fall below existing merger-filing thresholds or affect innovation in ways that are, allegedly, ignored by current rules. For instance, Rohit Chopra, a former commissioner at the US Federal Trade Commission, asserted that too many transactions avoid antitrust scrutiny by falling through the cracks of HSR premerger notification thresholds. For instance, Rohit Chopra, a former commissioner at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, asserted that too many transactions avoid antitrust scrutiny by falling through the cracks of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act’s premerger-notification thresholds. As a result, Chopra claimed, “[t]he FTC ends up missing a large number of anticompetitive mergers every year.”[6]

These fears are particularly acute in the pharmaceutical and tech industries, where several high-profile academic articles and reports claim to have identified important gaps in current merger-enforcement rules, particularly with respect to acquisitions involving nascent and potential competitors.[7] Some of these gaps are purported to arise in situations that would normally appear to be procompetitive:

Established incumbents in spaces like tech, digital payments, internet, pharma and more have embarked on bids to acquire features, businesses and functionalities to shortcut the time and effort they would otherwise require for organic expansion. We have traditionally looked at these cases benignly, but it is now right to be much more cautious.[8]

As a result of these perceived deficiencies, scholars and enforcers have called for tougher rules, including the introduction of lower merger-filing thresholds—similar to what has been put forward in Korea’s proposed reform of its merger rules—and substantive changes, such as the inversion of the burden of proof when authorities review mergers and acquisitions in the digital-platform industry.[9] Meanwhile, and seemingly in response to the increased political and advocacy pressures around the issue, U.S. antitrust enforcers have recently undertaken several enforcement actions directly targeting such acquisitions.[10] Meanwhile, and seemingly in response to the increased political and advocacy pressures around the issue, U.S. antitrust enforcers have recently undertaken several enforcement actions that directly target such acquisitions.[11]

These proposals, however, tend to overlook the important tradeoffs that would ensue from attempts to decrease the number of false positives under existing merger rules and thresholds. While merger enforcement ought to be mindful of these possible theories of harm, the theories and evidence are not nearly as robust as many proponents suggest. Most importantly, there is insufficient basis to conclude that the costs of permitting the behavior they identify is greater than the costs would be of increasing enforcement to prohibit it.[12]

In this regard, two key strands of economic literature are routinely overlooked (or summarily dismissed) by critics of the status quo.

For a start, as Judge Frank Easterbrook argued in his pioneering work on The Limits of Antitrust, antitrust enforcement is anything but costless.[13] In the case of merger enforcement, not only is it expensive for agencies to detect anticompetitive deals but, more importantly, overbearing rules may deter beneficial merger activity that creates value for consumers. Indeed, not only are most mergers welfare-enhancing, but barriers to merger activity have been shown to significantly, and negatively, affect early company investment.[14]

Second, critics are mistaking the nature of causality. Scholars routinely surmise that incumbents use mergers to shield themselves from competition. Acquisitions are thus seen as a means to eliminate competition. But this overlooks an important alternative. It is at least plausible that incumbents’ superior managerial or other capabilities (i.e., what made them successful in the first place) make them the ideal purchasers for entrepreneurs and startup investors who are looking to sell.

This dynamic is likely to be amplified where the acquirer and acquiree operate in overlapping lines of business. In other words, competitive advantage, and the ability to profitably acquire other firms, might be caused by business acumen rather than exemplifying anticompetitive behavior. And significant and high-profile M&A activity involving would-be competitors may thus be the procompetitive byproduct of a well-managed business, rather than anticompetitive efforts to stifle competition.

Critics systematically overlook this possibility. Indeed, Henry Manne’s seminal work on Mergers and Market for Corporate Control[15]—the first to argue that mergers are a means of applying superior management practices to new assets—is almost never cited by contemporary researchers in this space. Our comments attempt to set the record straight.

With this in mind, we believe that calls to reform merger enforcement rules and procedures should be analyzed under the error-cost framework. With this in mind, we believe that calls to reform merger-enforcement rules and procedures should be analyzed under the error-cost framework. Accordingly, the challenge for policymakers is not merely to minimize type II errors (i.e., false acquittals), which have been a key area of focus for recent scholarship, but also type I errors (i.e., false convictions) and enforcement costs. This is particularly important in the field of merger enforcement, where authorities need to analyze vast numbers of transactions in extremely short periods of time.

In other words, while scholars have raised valid concerns, they have not suggested alternative institutional arrangements to address them that would lead to better overall outcomes. In other words, while scholars have raised valid concerns, they have not suggested alternative institutional arrangements to address those concerns that would lead to better overall outcomes. All legal enforcement systems are imperfect, and it is not enough to justify changes to the system that some imperfections can be identified.[16] Indeed, it could be that antitrust doctrine currently condones practices that harm innovation, but that there is no cost-effective way to reliably identify and deter this harmful conduct.

For instance, as we discuss below, a recent paper estimates that between 5.3% and 7.4% of pharmaceutical mergers are “killer acquisitions.”[17] But even if that is accurate, it suggests no tractable basis on which those acquisitions can be differentiated ex ante from the 92.6% to 94.7% that are presumed to be competitively neutral or procompetitive. A reformed system that overly deters these acquisitions in order to capture more of the problematic ones—which is presumably the purpose of the merger-related amendments in the 2023 Competition Act— is not necessarily an improvement.

Further, while many of the arguments suggesting that the current system is imperfect are well-taken, these claims of systemic problems are not always as robust as proponents suggest. This further weakens the case for policy reform, because any potential gains from such reforms are likely far less certain than they are often claimed to be.

II.      Antitrust and the Error-Cost Framework

Firms spend trillions of dollars globally every year on corporate mergers, acquisitions, and R&D investments.[18] Most of the time, these investments are benign, often leading to cost reductions, synergies, new or improved products, and lower prices for consumers.[19] For smaller firms, the possibility of being acquired can be vital to making a product worth developing.

There are also instances, however, when M&A activity enables firms to increase their market power and reduce output. Therein lies the fundamental challenge for antitrust authorities: among these myriad transactions, investments, and business decisions, is it possible to effectively sort the wheat from the chaff in a way that leads to net improvements in efficiency and competition, and ultimately consumer welfare? In more concrete terms, the question is: are there reasonable rules and standards that enforcers can use to filter out anticompetitive practices while allowing beneficial ones to follow their course? And if so, can this be done in a timely and cost-effective manner?[20]

A.      The Use of Filters in Antitrust

What might appear to be a herculean task has, in fact, been considerably streamlined, and vastly improved, by the emergence of the error-cost framework, itself a byproduct of pioneering advances in microeconomics and industrial organization.[21] This is “the economists’ way out.”[22] The error-cost framework is designed to enable authorities to focus their limited resources on that conduct most likely to have anticompetitive effects. In practice, this is done by applying several successive filters that separate potentially anticompetitive practices from ones that are likely innocuous.[23] Depending on this initial classification, practices are then submitted to varying levels of scrutiny, which may range from per se prohibitions to presumptive legality.[24]

Of the thousands of M&A transactions each year, only a few must be notified to antitrust authorities, and fewer still are subject to in-depth reviews.[25] For instance, in both the United States and the European Union, only deals that meet certain transaction values and/or revenue thresholds require merger notifications.[26] Accordingly, U.S. antitrust authorities receive somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000 merger filings per year, while the European Commission usually receives a few hundred.[27] Typically, less than 5% of these mergers are ultimately subjected to in-depth reviews.[28] These cases are selected by applying yet another set of filters that include: looking at the relationship between the merging firms (horizontal, vertical, conglomerate); calculating market shares and concentration ratios; and checking whether transactions fall within several recognized theories of harm.[29]

Similar filtering mechanisms apply to other forms of conduct. Incumbent firms routinely decide to enter adjacent markets, for instance, or to adopt strategies that might incidentally reduce competition in markets where they are already present. As with mergers, authorities and courts apply a series of filters/presumptions to home in on those practices most likely to cause anticompetitive harm.[30] Firms with low market shares are deemed less likely to possess market power (and thus, less likely to harm competition); vertical agreements are widely seen as being less problematic than horizontal ones; and vertical integration is widely regarded as procompetitive, absent other accompanying factors.[31]

This system is certainly not perfect; filtering cases in this manner inevitably lets some anticompetitive practices fall through the cracks. Indeed, the error-cost framework is premised on the recognition of this eventuality. Nevertheless, the strengths of this paradigm arguably outweigh its weaknesses. “If presumptions let some socially undesirable practices escape, the cost is bearable. . . . One cannot have the savings of decision by rule without accepting the costs of mistakes.”[32]

In most jurisdictions around the world, today’s competition merger-control apparatus is administrable,[33] somewhat predictable,[34] and—in the case of merger enforcement—it ensures that deals are reviewed in a relatively timely manner.[35]

The contours of this system have profound ramifications for substantive antitrust policy. Potential reforms need to account for the tradeoffs inherent to this vision of antitrust enforcement: between false positives and false negatives, between timeliness and thoroughness, and so on. Accordingly, the relevant policy question is not whether existing provisions allow certain categories of potentially harmful conduct to go unchallenged. Instead, policymakers should ask whether there is a better set of filters and heuristics that would enable authorities and courts to prevent previously unchallenged anticompetitive conduct without overburdening the system or disproportionately increasing false positives. In short, antitrust enforcers must avoid the so-called “nirvana fallacy” of believing that all errors can be eliminated, and existing policies should thus always be weighed against alternative institutional arrangements (as opposed to merely identifying instances where they lead to false negatives).[36]

B.      Calls for a Reform of Merger-Enforcement Rules and Thresholds

Against this backdrop, a growing body of economic literature has identified potential inadequacies in both the U.S. and EU merger-control regimes, as well as the antitrust rules that govern the business practices of digital platforms (notably, vertical integration and tying).[37] These critiques focus on ways in which incumbents might prevent nascent or potential rivals from introducing innovative new products and services that could disrupt their existing businesses. In short, this recent economic literature purports to show how incumbents might use their dominant market positions to reduce innovation.

For instance, recent empirical research purports to show that mergers of pharmaceutical companies with overlapping R&D pipelines result in higher project-termination rates, thus reducing innovation and, ultimately, price competition. These are referred to as “killer acquisitions.”[38] Others have argued that killer acquisitions also occur in the tech sector, although the empirical evidence offered to support this second claim is much weaker. In large part, this is because it does not differentiate between legitimate, efficient discontinuations of acquired products (such as the product being unsuccessful on the market, or the acquisition being done to hire the staff of the acquired firm) and the elimination of potential competitors.[39] Acquisitions of nascent and potential competitors undertaken with the intention of reducing competition have also been described as “killer acquisitions,” even if they do not involve their products being discontinued.[40]

Along similar lines, it is sometimes argued that large tech firms create so-called “kill zones” around their core businesses.[41] Similarly, some scholars assert that incumbent digital platforms might seek to foreclose rivals in adjacent markets by “copying” their products, or by using proprietary datasets that tilt the scales in their favor.[42]

All of these practices are said to harm innovation by deterring the incentives of competitors to invest in innovations that compete with incumbents. And the overarching theme of the above research is that existing antitrust doctrine is ill-equipped to handle these practices—or, at the very least, that antitrust law should be enforced more vigorously in these settings.

But while the above research identifies important and potentially harmful conduct that cannot be dismissed out of hand, it is important to recognize its inherent limitations when it comes to informing normative policy decisions. Indeed, there is a vast difference between identifying categories of conduct that sometimes harm consumers, on the one hand, and being able to isolate individual instances of anticompetitive behavior, on the other (and even then, it is important to distinguish conduct that harms consumers overall from conduct that merely harms certain parameters of competition while improving others. In other words, antitrust law should prohibit conduct when the category it belongs to is generally harmful to consumers and/or when harmful occurrences of that conduct can readily be distinguished[43]).

The above is merely a restatement of the error-cost framework, which highlights that the existence of false negatives is not a sufficient condition for increased intervention. The fact—if it can be proved—that there were some false negatives does not imply that there has been underenforcement with respect to the optimal level of enforcement. In other words, in the digital space, the argument can be made that an optimal merger policy on average leads to ex-post “underenforcement.” Moreover, even if the level of enforcement has been lower than optimal, one must be careful not to swing too far in the opposite direction, especially in high-tech industries. The chilling effect on innovation could be significant.[44] Instead, any change to the standards of government intervention that seeks to prevent more of these false negatives, with all the accompany tradeoffs and risks inherent to this enterprise, must ultimately increases social welfare overall.

Take the example of Google. It has acquired at least 270 companies over the last two decades.[45] It has been argued that some of these—such as Google’s acquisitions of YouTube, Waze, or DoubleClick—may have been anticompetitive. The real test for regulators, however, is whether they could reliably identify which of Google’s 270 acquisitions are actually anticompetitive and do so under a decision rule that causes less harm to consumers from false positives caused by the current (alleged) false negatives. If the anticompetitive mergers are such a tiny percentage of total mergers, and if identifying them a priori is difficult, then a precautionary-principle strategy that results in many false positives would likely not merit the benefits from blocking one or two anticompetitive mergers.

Indeed, but for Google and Facebook’s investments in YouTube and Instagram (to cite but two examples), it is far from clear that a mere “video-hosting service” or “photo-sharing app” would have grown into the robust competitor that advocates assume. Apart from the potential synergies arising from the combination of these products with the acquiring companies’ other products (for example, YouTube’s search and recommendation engines being developed by Google, the world’s leading internet-search company, or Instagram’s ad platform being integrated with Facebook’s), corporate control by the acquiring company may lead to these firms being better managed. This concept of M&A as creating a “market for corporate control” adds an important new dimension to the understanding of the tradeoffs involved.[46]

These anticompetitive theories of harm can thus be separated into three broad categories: (1) large incumbents have become so dominant in their primary markets that venture capitalists decline to fund startups that compete head-on, reducing potential competition; (2) these incumbents acquire potential competitors or non-competitor startups so as to reduce the competition along several dimensions, and (3) that incumbents purchase competitors to shut down their overlapping innovation pipelines (i.e., killer acquisitions).

III.    Concluding Remarks

With this in mind, applying the error-cost framework should lead policymakers to carefully consider the following questions when evaluating the merits and policy implications of economic research in this space:

  1. Do the papers advancing these theories identify categories of conduct that, on average, harm consumer welfare?
  2. If not, do the papers identify additional factors that would enable authorities to infer the existence of anticompetitive effects in individual cases?
  3. If so, would it be feasible for authorities to add these factors to their analysis (in terms of time and resources)?
  4. Finally, would prohibiting these practices at an individual or category level prevent efficiencies that would otherwise outweigh these anticompetitive harms? And could these efficiencies be analyzed on a case-by-case basis?

In addition to these error-cost-related questions, it is also necessary to question whether the results of these studies are relevant outside of the specific markets that they examine, and whether they give sufficient weight to countervailing procompetitive justifications.

All of this has profound ramifications for amendments to Korea’s competition law. Lowering merger-filing thresholds may be counterproductive if it means fewer enforcement resources are devoted to other, more important cases. To make matters worse, heightened merger-control rules may deter firms from merging in the first place. In short, we recommend that Korean policymakers carefully consider whether the possibility of catching an additional handful of anticompetitive mergers is worth the significant costs that would be incurred by the Korean economy.

[1] Korea Fair Trade Commission, Administrative notice of amendments to business combination review standards (Nov. 14, 2023), available at https://www.ftc.go.kr/www/selectReportUserView.do?key=10&rpttype=1&report_data_no=10291.

[2] See, e.g., Jonathan B Baker, Recent Developments in Economics That Challenge Chicago School Views, 58 Antitrust L.J. 655 (1989) (“Over the past fifteen years, the courts and enforcement agencies have created Robert Bork’s antitrust paradise. Antitrust has adopted the Chicago School’s efficiency analysis and the Chicago School’s conclusions about the effects of business practices.”). Note that, in many ways, the Chicago and late-Harvard views are somewhat similar when it comes to mergers—both schools of thought might thus have influenced this loosening of merger policy. See, e.g., Richard A Posner, The Chicago School of Antitrust Analysis, U. Penn. L. Rev. 937 (1979) (“The change in thinking that has been brought about by the Chicago school is nowhere more evident than in the area of vertical integration. Kaysen and Turner, writing in 1959, advocated for- bidding any vertical merger in which the acquiring firm had twenty percent or more of its market. Areeda and Turner, writing in 1978, express very little concern with anticompetitive effects from vertical integration. In fact, as between a rule of per se illegality for vertical integration by monopolists and a rule of per se legality, their preference is for the latter.”).

[3] See, e.g., Germán Gutiérrez & Thomas Philippon, Declining Competition and Investment in the U.S., NBER Working Paper 1 (2017) (“The U.S. business sector has under-invested relative to Tobin’s Q since the early 2000’s. We argue that declining competition is partly responsible for this phenomenon.”). Contra, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, Pierre-Daniel Sarte & Nicholas Trachter, Diverging trends in national and local concentration, 35 NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1 (2021) (“Using US NETS data, we present evidence that the positive trend observed in national product-market concentration between 1990 and 2014 becomes a negative trend when we focus on measures of local concentration. We document diverging trends for several geographic definitions of local markets. SIC 8 industries with diverging trends are pervasive across sectors. In these industries, top firms have contributed to the amplification of both trends. When a top firm opens a plant, local concentration declines and remains lower for at least 7 years. Our findings, therefore, reconcile the increasing national role of large firms with falling local concentration, and a likely more competitive local environment.”).

[4] See, e.g., José Azar, Ioana Marinescu, Marshall Steinbaum & Bledi Taska, Concentration in U.S. labor markets: Evidence From Online Vacancy Data, 66 Labour Economics 101886 (2020) (“These indicators suggest that employer concentration is a meaningful measure of employer power in labor markets, that there is a high degree of employer power in labor markets, and also that it varies widely across occupations and geography.”).

[5] See, e.g., Tim Wu, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age 9 (2018) (“We have managed to recreate both the economics and politics of a century ago—the first Gilded Age—and remain in grave danger of repeating more of the signature errors of the twentieth century. As that era has taught us, extreme economic concentration yields gross inequality and material suffering, feeding an appetite for nationalistic and extremist leadership. Yet, as if blind to the greatest lessons of the last century, we are going down the same path. If we learned one thing from the Gilded Age, it should have been this: The road to fascism and dictatorship is paved with failures of economic policy to serve the needs of the general public.”).

[6] Rohit Chopra, Statement of Commissioner Rohit Chopra, 85 Fed. Regis. 231, 77052 (2020) (“Adequate premerger reporting is a helpful tool used to halt anticompetitive transactions before too much damage is done. However, the usefulness of the HSR Act only goes so far. This is because many deals can quietly close without any notification and reporting, since only transactions above a certain size are reportable.”).

[7] See Collen Cunningham, Florian Ederer, & Song Ma, Killer Acquisitions, 129 J. Pol. Econ. 649 (2021); Sai Krishna Kamepalli, Raghuram Rajan & Luigi Zingales, Kill Zone, Nat’l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 27146 (2020); Digital Competition Expert Panel, Unlocking Digital Competition (2019), available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/785547/unlocking_digital_competition_furman_review_web.pdf; Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, Stigler Committee on Digital Platforms (2019), available at https://www.publicknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Stigler-Committee-on-Digital-Platforms-Final-Report.pdf; Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Digital Platforms Inquiry (2019), available at https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20platforms%20inquiry%20-%20final%20report.pdf. See also Jacques Cre?mer, Yves-Alexandre De Montjoye, Heike Schweitzer, Competition Policy For The Digital Era Final Report (2019), available at https://ec.europa.eu/competition/publications/reports/kd0419345enn.pdf [hereinafter “Crémer Report”].

[8] Cristina Caffarra, Gregory S. Crawford, & Tommaso Valletti, “How Tech Rolls”: Potential Competition and “Reverse” Killer Acquisitions, 2 Antitrust Chron. 1, 1 (2020).

[9] As far as jurisdictional thresholds are concerned, see, e.g., Crémer Report, supra note 7, at 10 (“Many of these acquisitions may escape the Commission’s jurisdiction because they take place when the start-ups do not yet generate sufficient turnover to meet the thresholds set out in the EUMR. This is because many digital startups attempt first to build a successful product and attract a large user base while sacrificing short-term profits; therefore, the competitive potential of such start-ups may not be reflected in their turnover. To fill this gap, some Member States have introduced alternative thresholds based on the value of the transaction, but their practical effects still have to be verified.”). As far as inverting the burden of proof is concerned, see, e.g., Crémer Report, supra note 7, at 11 (“The test proposed here would imply a heightened degree of control of acquisitions of small start-ups by dominant platforms and/or ecosystems, to be analysed as a possible strategy against partial user defection from the ecosystem. Where an acquisition is plausibly part of such a strategy, the notifying parties should bear the burden of showing that the adverse effects on competition are offset by merger-specific efficiencies.”).

[10] See FTC Press Release, FTC Sues to Block Procter & Gamble’s Acquisition of Billie, Inc. (Dec. 8, 2020), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/12/ftc-sues-block-procter-gambles-acquisitionbillie-inc; DOJ Press Release, Justice Department Sues to Block Visa’s Proposed Acquisition of Plaid (Nov. 5, 2020), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-block-visas-proposedacquisition-plaid; FTC Press Release, FTC Files Suit to Block Edgewell Personal Care Company’s Acquisition of Harry’s, Inc. (Feb. 3, 2020), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/02/ftcfiles-suit-block-edgewell-personal-care-companys-acquisition; FTC Press Release, FTC Challenges Illumina’s Proposed Acquisition of PacBio (Dec. 17, 2019), https://www.ftc.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/2019/12/ftc-challenges-illuminas-proposed-acquisition-pacbio; DOJ Press Release, Justice Department Sues to Block Sabre’s Acquisition of Farelogix (Aug. 20, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-block-sabres-acquisition-farelogix.

[11] See FTC Press Release, FTC Sues to Block Procter & Gamble’s Acquisition of Billie, Inc. (Dec. 8, 2020), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/12/ftc-sues-block-procter-gambles-acquisitionbillie-inc; DOJ Press Release, Justice Department Sues to Block Visa’s Proposed Acquisition of Plaid (Nov. 5, 2020), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-block-visas-proposedacquisition-plaid; FTC Press Release, FTC Files Suit to Block Edgewell Personal Care Company’s Acquisition of Harry’s, Inc. (Feb. 3, 2020), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/02/ftcfiles-suit-block-edgewell-personal-care-companys-acquisition; FTC Press Release, FTC Challenges Illumina’s Proposed Acquisition of PacBio (Dec. 17, 2019), https://www.ftc.gov/newsevents/pressreleases/2019/12/ftc-challenges-illuminas-proposed-acquisition-pacbio; DOJ Press Release, Justice Department Sues to Block Sabre’s Acquisition of Farelogix (Aug. 20, 2019), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-sues-block-sabres-acquisition-farelogix.

[12] See, e.g., Prepared Remarks of Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips, “Reasonably Capable? Applying Section 2 to Acquisitions of Nascent Competitors,” Antitrust in the Technology Sector: Policy Perspectives and Insights From the Enforcers Conference (Apr. 29, 2021), available at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/1589524/reasonably_capable_-_acquisitions_of_nascent_competitors_4-29-2021_final_for_posting.pdf (“Some would-be reformers view M&A as fundamentally predatory and wish to “level the playing” field for smaller, less competitive, or more sympathetic businesses by throwing as much sand in the gears as possible. But their Harrison Bergeron vision of competition, handicapping successful businesses, will not so much level the field as tilt the scales dramatically in favor of the government, handing tremendous power to regulators, sapping American competitiveness, and hitting Americans in their pocketbooks.”).

[13] Frank H. Easterbrook, The Limits of Antitrust, 63 Tex. L. Rev. 1 (1984).

[14] For vertical mergers, the welfare-enhancing effects are well-established. See, e.g., Francine Lafontaine & Margaret Slade, Vertical Integration and Firm Boundaries: The Evidence, 45 J. Econ. Lit. 677 (2007) (“In spite of the lack of unified theory, over all a fairly clear empirical picture emerges. The data appear to be telling us that efficiency considerations overwhelm anticompetitive motives in most contexts. Furthermore, even when we limit attention to natural monopolies or tight oligopolies, the evidence of anticompetitive harm is not strong.”). See also, Global Antitrust Institute, Comment Letter on Federal Trade Commission’s Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, Vertical Mergers 8–9, Geo. Mason Law & Econ. Research Paper No. 18-27 (2018), https://ssrn.com/abstract=3245940 (“In sum, these papers from 2009-2018 continue to support the conclusions from Lafontaine & Slade (2007) and Cooper et al. (2005) that consumers mostly benefit from vertical integration. While vertical integration can certainly foreclose rivals in theory, there is only limited empirical evidence supporting that finding in real markets. The results continue to suggest that the modern antitrust approach to vertical mergers 9 should reflect the empirical reality that vertical relationships are generally procompetitive.”). Along similar lines, empirical research casts doubt on the notion that antitrust merger enforcement (in marginal cases) raises consumer welfare. The effects of horizontal mergers are, empirically, less well-documented. See, e.g., Robert W Crandall & Clifford Winston, Does Antitrust Policy Improve Consumer Welfare? Assessing the Evidence, 17 J. Econ. Persp. 20 (2003) (“We can only conclude that efforts by antitrust authorities to block particular mergers or affect a merger’s outcome by allowing it only if certain conditions are met under a consent decree have not been found to increase consumer welfare in any systematic way, and in some instances the intervention may even have reduced consumer welfare.”). While there is some evidence that horizontal mergers can reduce consumer welfare, at least in the short run, see, for example, Gregory J. Werden, Andrew S. Joskow, & Richard L. Johnson, The Effects of Mergers on Price and Output: Two Case Studies from the Airline Industry, 12 Mgmt. Decis. Econ. 341 (1991), the long-run effects appear to be strongly positive. See, e.g., Dario Focarelli & Fabio Panetta, Are Mergers Beneficial to Consumers? Evidence from the Market for Bank Deposits, 93 Am. Econ. Rev. 1152, 1152 (2003) (“We find strong evidence that, although consolidation does generate adverse price changes, these are temporary. In the long run, efficiency gains dominate over the market power effect, leading to more favorable prices for consumers.”). See also generally Michael C. Jensen, Takeovers: Their Causes and Consequences, 2 J. Econ. Persp. 21 (1988). Some related literature similarly finds that horizontal merger enforcement has harmed consumers. See B. Espen Eckbo & Peggy Wier, Antimerger Policy Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act: A Reexamination of the Market Power Hypothesis, 28 J.L. & Econ. 119, 121 (1985) (“In sum, our results do not support the contention that enforcement of Section 7 has served the public interest. While it is possible that the government’s merger policy has deterred some anticompetitive mergers, the results indicate that it has also protected rival producers from facing increased competition due to efficient mergers.”); B. Espen Eckbo, Mergers and the Value of Antitrust Deterrence, 47 J. Finance 1005, 1027-28 (1992) (rejecting “the market concentration doctrine on samples of both U.S. and Canadian mergers. By implication, the results also reject the effective deterrence hypothesis. The evidence is, however, consistent with the alternative hypothesis that the horizontal mergers in either of the two countries were expected to generate productive efficiencies”). Regarding the effect of mergers on investment, see, e.g., Gordon M. Phillips & Alexei Zhdanov, Venture Capital Investments and Merger and Acquisition Activity Around the World, NBER Working Paper No. w24082 (Nov. 2017), available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=3082265 (“We examine the relation between venture capital (VC) investments and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity around the world. We find evidence of a strong positive association between VC investments and lagged M&A activity, consistent with the hypothesis that an active M&A market provides viable exit opportunities for VC companies and therefore incentivizes them to engage in more deals.”). And increased M&A activity in the pharmaceutical sector has not led to decreases in product approvals; rather, quite the opposite has happened. See, e.g., Barak Richman, Will Mitchell, Elena Vidal, & Kevin Schulman, Pharmaceutical M&A Activity: Effects on Prices, Innovation, and Competition, 48 Loyola U. Chi. L.J. 799 (2017) (“Our review of data measuring pharmaceutical innovation, however, tells a different story. First, even as merger activity in the United States increased over the past ten years, there has been a steady upward trend of FDA approvals of new molecular entities (“NMEs”) and new biological products (“BLAs”). Hence, the industry has been highly successful in bringing new products to the market.”).

[15] Henry G. Manne, Mergers and the Market for Corporate Control, 73 J. Pol. Econ. 110 (1965).

[16] See Harold Demsetz, Information and Efficiency: Another Viewpoint, 12 J.L. Econ. 1, 22 (1969) (“The view that now pervades much public policy economics implicitly presents the relevant choice as between an ideal norm and an existing “imperfect” institutional arrangement. This nirvana approach differs considerably from a comparative institution approach in which the relevant choice is between alternative real institutional arrangements.”).

[17] Cunningham et al., supra note 7, at 692 (“Given these assumptions and estimates, what would the fraction ν of pure killer acquisitions among transactions with overlap have to be to result in the lower development of acquisitions with overlap (13.4%)? Specifically, we solve the equation 13.4% = ν × 0 + (1 − ν) × 17.5% for ν which yields ν = 23.4%. Therefore, we estimate that 5.3% (= ν × 22.7%) of all acquisitions, or about 46 (= 5.3% × 856) acquisitions every year, are killer acquisitions. If instead we assume the non-killer acquisitions to have the same development likelihood as non-acquired projects (19.9%), we estimate that 7.4% of acquisitions, or 63 per year, are killer acquisitions.”).

[18] See Value of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Worldwide from 1985 to 2020, Statista (Jan. 15, 2021), https://www.statista.com/statistics/267369/volume-of-mergers-and-acquisitions-worldwide. See Gross Domestic Spending on R&D, OECD (last visited Apr. 29, 2021) https://data.oecd.org/rd/gross-domestic-spending-on-r-d.htm.

[19] See supra note 14.

[20] Running the antitrust system is itself a cost to society.

[21] See, e.g., Olivier E. Williamson, Economies as an Antitrust Defense: The Welfare Tradeoffs, 58 Am. Econ. Rev. 18 (1968). See also, Easterbrook, supra note 13; Henry G. Manne, supra note 15; William M Landes & Richard A Posner, Market Power in Antitrust Cases, 94 Harv. L. Rev. 937 (1980).

[22] Easterbrook, id., at 14.

[23] See Easterbrook, id., at 17 (“The task, then, is to create simple rules that will filter the category of probably beneficial practices out of the legal system, leaving to assessment under the Rule of Reason only those with significant risks of competitive injury.”).

[24] Id. at 15 (“They should adopt some simple presumptions that structure antitrust inquiry. Strong presumptions would guide businesses in planning their affairs by making it possible for counsel to state that some things do not create risks of liability. They would reduce the costs of litigation by designating as dispositive particular topics capable of resolution.”).

[25] See Number of Merger and Acquisition Transactions Worldwide from 1985 to 2021, Statista (May 14, 2021), https://www.statista.com/statistics/267368/number-of-mergers-and-acquisitions-worldwide-since-2005.

[26] See 15 U.S.C. §18a (1976). See also, FTC Premerger Notification Office Staff, HSR Thresholds Adjustments and Reportability for 2020, FTC Competition Matters (Jan. 31, 2020), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/competition-matters/2020/01/hsr-threshold-adjustments-reportability-2020. See also Council Regulation 139/2004, 2004 O.J. (L 24) 1, 22 (EC).

[27] See Federal Trade Comm’n & U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Hart-Scott-Rodino Annual Report Fiscal Year 2019 (2020), available at https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-bureau-competition-department-justice-antitrust-division-hart-scott-rodino/p110014hsrannualreportfy2019_0.pdf. See also, European Commission, Merger Statistics, 21 September 1990 to 31 December 2020 (2021), available at https://ec.europa.eu/competition/mergers/statistics.pdf.

[28] See FTC and European Commission, id.

[29] See U.S. Dep’t of Justice & Fed. Trade Comm’n, Horizontal Merger Guidelines (2010), U.S. Dep’t of Justice & Fed. Trade Comm’n, Vertical Merger Guidelines (2020). See also Commission Guidelines on the Assessment of Non-Horizontal Mergers Under the Council Regulation on the Control of Concentrations Between Undertakings, 2008 O.J. (C 265) 6, 25.

[30] See Federal Trade Commission & U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property 15 (Jan. 12, 2017) (“The existence of a horizontal relationship between a licensor and its licensees does not, in itself, indicate that the arrangement is anticompetitive. Identification of such relationships is merely an aid in determining whether there may be anticompetitive effects arising from a licensing arrangement.”). See also European Commission, Communication from the Commission—Guidance on the Commission’s Enforcement Priorities in Applying Article 82 of the EC Treaty to Abusive Exclusionary Conduct by Dominant Undertakings, O.J. C. 45, 7–20 (Feb. 24, 2009).

[31] See Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property, id. See also, Commission Guidelines on Vertical Restraints, 2010 O.J. (C 130) 1, 46, available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52010XC0519(04)&from=EN.

[32] Easterbrook, supra note 13, at 15.

[33] It requires only limited government resources to function, compared to, for example, a system that reviews every merger in detail.

[34] Companies can self-assess whether their mergers are likely to be struck down by authorities and adapt their investment decisions accordingly.

[35] Even in-depth merger investigations are typically concluded within months, rather than years.

[36] See Demsetz, supra note 16, at 1 (“The view that now pervades much public policy economics implicitly presents the relevant choice as between an ideal norm and an existing “imperfect” institutional arrangement. This nirvana approach differs considerably from a comparative institution approach in which the relevant choice is between alternative real institutional arrangements.”).

[37] See Cunningham et al., supra note 7; Zingales et al., supra note 7; Kevin A Bryan & Erik Hovenkamp, Antitrust Limits on Startup Acquisitions, 56 Rev. Indus. Org. 615 (2020); Mark A. Lemley & Andrew McCreary, Exit Strategy, Stanford Law and Economics Working Paper No. 542 (2020), available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3506919.

[38] See Cunningham et al., id. at 650 (“We argue that an incumbent firm may acquire an innovative target and terminate the development of the target’s innovations to preempt future competition. We call such acquisitions ‘killer acquisitions,’ as they eliminate potentially promising, yet likely competing, innovation.”).

[39] See, e.g., Axel Gautier & Joe Lamesch, Mergers in the Digital Economy, Info. Econ. & Pol’y (2000) (“There are three reasons to discontinue a product post-acquisition: the product is not as successful as expected, the acquisition was not motivated by the product itself but by the target’s assets or R&D effort, or by the elimination of a potential competitive threat. While our data does not enable us to screen between these explanations, the present analysis shows that most of the startups are killed in their infancy.”).

[40] John M. Yun, Potential Competition, Nascent Competitors, and Killer Acquisitions, in GAI Report on the Digital Economy (Ginsburg & Wright, eds. 2000).

[41] See Zingales et al. supra note 7.

[42] See, e.g., Kevin Caves & Hal Singer, When the Econometrician Shrugged: Identifying and Plugging Gaps in the Consumer-Welfare Standard, 26 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 396 (2018) (“Or imagine the platform was appropriating or “cloning” app functionality into its basic service. The only potential harm in this instance would be that independent edge providers would be encouraged to exit or discouraged from entering in future periods. In theory, edge providers might be discouraged to compete in the app space given what they perceive to be a slanted playing field.”).

[43] See, e.g., Eric Fruits, Justin (Gus) Hurwitz, Geoffrey A. Manne, Julian Morris, & Alec Stapp, Static and Dynamic Effects of Mergers: A Review of the Empirical Evidence in the Wireless Telecommunications Industry, OECD Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs Competition Committee, Global Forum on Competition, DAF/COMP/GF(2019)13 (Dec. 6, 2019) at ¶ 61, available at https://one.oecd.org/document/DAF/COMP/GF(2019)13/en/pdf (“Studies that do not consider these [non-price] effects are incomplete for purposes of evaluating the mergers’ consumer welfare effects, and [are] all-too-easily used by advocates to misleadingly predict negative consumer outcomes. This is not necessarily a criticism of the studies themselves, which generally do not make comprehensive policy conclusions. The reality is that it is exceptionally difficult to comprehensively study even price effects, such that a well-conducted study of price effects alone is a valuable contribution to the literature. Nevertheless, in the context of evaluating prospective transactions, the results of such studies must be discounted to account for their exclusion of non-price effects.”).

[44] Luís Cabral, Merger Policy in Digital Industries, CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14785 (May 2020) at 12, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3612854.

[45] See Carl Shapiro, Antitrust in the Time of Populism, 61 Int’l J. Indus. Org. 714 (2018).

[46] See Henry G. Manne, supra note 15.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Playing the Imitation Game in Digital Market Regulation – A Cautionary Analysis for Brazil

Regulatory Comments Introduction On 11 October 2022, João Maia (Federal Deputy, Partido Liberal) proposed Bill 2768/22 (“Bill 2768” or “Bill”) on digital market regulation.[1] Bill 2768 is . . .

Introduction

On 11 October 2022, João Maia (Federal Deputy, Partido Liberal) proposed Bill 2768/22 (“Bill 2768” or “Bill”) on digital market regulation.[1] Bill 2768 is Brazil’s response to global trends toward the ex-ante regulation of digital platforms, and was at least partially inspired by the EU’s Digital Markets Act (“DMA”).[2] In our contribution to the public consultation on Bill 2768 (“Consultation”),[3] however, we argue that Brazil should be wary of importing untested regulation into its own, unique context. Rather than impulsively replicating the EU’s latest regulatory whim, Brazil should adopt a more methodical, evidence-based approach. Sound regulation requires that new rules be underpinned by a clear vision of the specific market failures they aim to address, as well as an understanding of the costs and potential unintended consequences. Unfortunately, Bill 2768 fails to meet these prerequisites. As we show in our response to the Consultation, it is far from clear that competition law in Brazil has failed to address issues in digital markets to the extent that would make sui generis digital regulation necessary. Indeed, it is unlikely that there are any truly “essential facilities” in the Brazilian digital market that would make access regulation necessary, or that “data” represents an unsurmountable barrier to entry. Other aspects of the Bill—such as the designation of Anatel as the relevant enforcer, the extremely low turnover thresholds used to ascertain gatekeeper status, and the lack of consideration given to consumer welfare as a relevant parameter in establishing harm or claiming an exemption—are also misguided. As it stands, therefore, Bill 2768 not only risks straining Brazil’s limited public resources, but also harming innovation, consumer prices, and the country’s thriving startup ecosystem.

Question 1

Identification of “essential facilities” in the universe of digital markets. Give examples of platform assets in the digital market operating in Brazil where at the same time: a) there are no digital platforms with substitute assets close to these assets b) these assets are difficult to duplicate efficiently at least close to the owning company c) without access to this asset, it would not be possible to operate in one or more markets, as it constitutes a fundamental input. Justify each of the examples given.

For the reasons we discuss below, it is unlikely that there are any examples of true “essential facilities” in digital markets in Brazil.

It important to define the meaning of “essential facility” precisely. The concept of essential facility is a state-of-the-art term used in competition law, which has been defined differently across jurisdictions. Still, the overarching idea of the essential facilities doctrines is that there are instances in which denial of access to a facility by an incumbent can distort competition. To demarcate between cases where denial of access constitutes a legitimate expression of competition on the merits from instances in which it indicates anticompetitive conduct, however, courts and competition authorities have devised a series of tests.

Thus, in the EU, the seminal Bronner case established that the essential facilities doctrine applies in Art. 102 TFEU cases when:

  1. The refusal is likely to eliminate all competition in the market on the part of the person requesting the service;
  2. The refusal is incapable of being objectively justified; and
  3. The service in itself is indispensable to carrying out that person’s business, i.e., there is no actual or potential substitute for the requested input.[4]

In addition, the facility must be genuinely “essential” to compete, not merely convenient.

Similarly, CADE has incorporated the essential facilities doctrine into Brazilian competition policy by imposing a duty to deal with competitors.[5]

The definition of “essential facilities” and, consequently, the breadth and limits of the essential facilities doctrine under Bill 2768/2022 (“Bill 2768”) should reflect tried and tested principles from competition law. There is no reason why essential facilities should be treated differently in “digital” markets, i.e., markets involving digital platforms, than in other markets. In this sense, we are concerned that the framing of Question 1 reveals an inconsistency that should be addressed before moving forward; namely, when a company’s assets are “difficult” to replicate efficiently, it is justified to force a competitor to grant access to those assets. This is misguided and could even produce the opposite of what Bill 2768 presumably aims to achieve.

As indicated above, the fundamental concept underpinning the essential facilities doctrine is that it applies to a product or service that is uneconomic or impossible to duplicate. Typically, this has applied to infrastructure, such as telecommunications or railways. For instance, expecting competitors to duplicate transport routes, such as railways, would be unrealistic — and economically wasteful. Instead, governments have often chosen to regulate these sectors as natural monopoly public utilities. Predominantly, this includes mandating access to all comers to such essential facilities under regulated prices and non-discriminatory conditions that make the activity of other companies viable and competitive—thus facilitating competition on a secondary market in situations in which competition might otherwise be impossible.

The government should ask itself to what extent this logic applies to so-called digital platforms, however.

Online search engines, for example, are not impossible or excessively difficult to replicate—nor is access to any one of them indispensable. Today, many search engines are on the market: Bing, Yandex, Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, Google, Baidu, Ask.com, and Swisscows, among others.

More to the point, mere access to search engines isn’t really a problem. Rather, in most cases, those complaining about a search engine’s activity typically complain about access to the very first results, or they complain about the search engine prioritizing its own secondary-market services over those of the competitor. But this space is vanishingly scarce; there is no way for it to be allocated to all comers. Nor can it be allocated on neutral terms; by definition, a search engine must prioritize results.

Treating a search engine as an essential facility would generate problematic outcomes. For example, mandating non-discriminatory access to a search engine’s top results would be like requiring that a railroad offer service to all shippers at whatever time the shipper liked, regardless of railroad congestion, other shippers’ timetables, and the railroad’s optimization of its schedule. Not only would this be impossible, but it isn’t even required of traditional essential facilities.

Notably, while ranking high on a search engine results page is undoubtedly a boon for business, there are other ways of reaching customers. Indeed, as CADE ruled in a case concerning Google Shopping, even if the first page of Google’s result is relevant and important to ranked websites, it is not irreplaceable to the extent that there are other ways for consumers to find websites online. Google is not a mandatory intermediary for website access.[6] Moreover, as noted, search results pages must, by definition, discriminate in order to function correctly. Deeming them essential facilities would entail endless wrangling (and technically complicated determinations) to decide if the search engine’s prioritization decisions were “proper” or not.

Similarly, online retail platforms like Amazon and Mercado Livre are very successful and convenient, but sellers can use other methods to reach customers. For example, they can sell from brick-and-mortar stores or easily set up their own retail websites using myriad software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) providers to facilitate processing and fulfilling orders. Furthermore, the concurrent presence and success of Mercado Livre, B2W (Submarino.com, Americanas.com, Shoptime, Soubarato), Cnova (Extra.com.br, Casasbahia.com.br, Pontofrio.com), Magazine Louiza, and Amazon on the Brazilian market belies the claim that any one of these platforms is indispensable or irreplicable.[7]

Similar arguments can be made about the other digital platforms covered by Art. 6, paragraph II of Bill 2768. For example, WhatsApp may be by far the most popular interpersonal communication service in the country. Still, there are plenty of alternatives within easy (and mostly free) reach for Brazilian consumers, such as Messenger (62 million users), Telegram (30 million), Instagram (64 million), Viber (3 million), Hangouts (2 million), WeChat (1 million), Kik (500,000 users), and Line (1 million users). The sheer number of users of every app suggests that multi-homing is widespread.

In sum, while access to a particular digital platform may be convenient, especially if it is currently the most popular among users, it is highly questionable whether such access is essential. And, as Advocate General Jacobs noted in his opinion in Bronner, mere convenience does not create a right of access under the essential facilities doctrine.[8]

Recommendation: Bill 2768 should make it clear that the principles and requirements of “essential facilities” within the meaning of competition law apply in full to the duties and obligations contemplated in Art. 10 — and that the finding of an “essential facility” is a prerequisite to the imposition of any such duties or obligations.

Question 2

Is regulation necessary to guarantee access to the asset(s) of the example(s) from Question 1? What should such regulation guarantee so that access to the asset enables third parties to enter those digital markets?

Before considering whether regulation is necessary to guarantee access to assets of certain companies, the government should first consider whether guaranteeing any such access is necessary and legitimate. In our response to Question 1, we have argued that it is unlikely to be. If the government nevertheless decides to the contrary, the next logical question should be whether competition law, including the essential facilities doctrine itself, are sufficient to address any such alleged problems as are identified in Question 2.

Arguably, the best way to answer this question would be through the natural experiment of letting CADE bring cases against digital platforms — assuming it can construct a prima facie case in each instance — and seeing whether or not traditional competition law tools provide a viable solution and, if not, whether these tools can be sharpened by reforming Brazil’s competition law or whether new, comprehensive ex-ante regulation is needed.

By comparison, the EU experimented with EU competition law before passing the DMA. In fact, most if not all the prohibitions and obligations of the DMA stem from competition law cases.[9] The EU eventually decided that it preferred to pass blanket ex-ante rules against certain practices rather than having to litigate through competition law. Whether or not this was the right decision is up for debate, but one thing is certain: The EU tried its competition toolkit extensively against digital platforms before learning from the outcomes and deciding it needed to be complemented with a new set of broader, enforcer-friendly, bright-line rules.

By contrast, Brazil has initiated only a handful of antitrust cases against digital platforms. According to numbers published by CADE,[10] CADE has reviewed 233 merger cases related to digital platform markets between 1995 and 2023 and, regarding unilateral conduct (monopolization cases)—those most relevant for the discussion on Bill 2768—opened 23 conduct cases. Regarding those 23 cases, 9 are still being investigated, 11 were dismissed, and only 3 were settled by the signature of a Cease-and-Desist Agreement (TCC). In this sense, only 3 cases (TCCs) out of 23 could be said to have been, to some extent, “condemned”. It is questionable whether these cases provide the sort of evidence of the existence of intrinsic competition problems in the eight service markets identified in Art. 6, paragraph II of Bill 2768 that would justify new, “sector-specific” access rules.[11]

In fact, the recent entry of companies into many of those markets suggests that the opposite is closer to the truth. There are numerous examples of entry in a variety of digital services, including the likes of TikTok, Shein, Shopee, and Daki, to name just a few.

Serious problems can arise when products that are not essential facilities are treated as such, of which we name two.

First, over-extending the essential facilities doctrine can encourage free riding.[12] This is not what the essential facilities doctrine, properly understood, aims to achieve, nor what it should be used for:

Consequently, the [European Court of Justice] implies that the [essential facilities doctrine] is not designed for the convenience of undertakings to free ride dominant undertakings, but only for the necessity of survival on the secondary market in situations where there are no effective substitutes.[13]

Why develop a competing online retail platform when access to Mercado Livre or Amazon is guaranteed by law? Free riding can discourage investments from third companies and targeted “gatekeepers,” especially in the development and improvement of competing business platforms (or alternative business models that are not exact replicas of existing platforms). Contrary to the stated goals of Bill 2768, this could further entrench incumbents, as the ability to free ride on others’ investments incentivizes companies to pivot away from contesting incumbents’ core markets to acting as complementors in those markets.

Indeed, a serious—and underappreciated—concern is the cost of excessive risk-taking by companies that can rely on regulatory protections to ensure continued viability even when it is not warranted.

Businesses must develop their business models and operate their businesses in recognition of the risk involved. A complementor that makes itself dependent upon a platform for distribution of its content does take a risk. Although it may benefit from greater access to users, it places itself at the mercy of the other — or at least faces great difficulty (and great cost) adapting to unanticipated platform changes over which it has no control. This is a species of the “asset specificity” problem that animates much of the Transaction Cost Economics literature.[14]

But the risk may be a calculated one. Firms occupy specialized positions in supply chains throughout the economy, and they make risky, asset-specific investments all the time. In most circumstances, firms use contracts to allocate both risk and responsibility in a way that makes the relationship viable. When it is too difficult to manage risk by contract, firms may vertically integrate (thus aligning their incentives) or simply go their separate ways.

The fact that a platform creates an opportunity for complementors to rely upon it does not mean that a firm’s decision to do so — and to do so without a viable contingency plan — makes good business sense. In the case of the comparison-shopping sites at issue in the EU’s Google Shopping decision,[15] for example, it was entirely predictable that Google’s algorithm would evolve. It was also entirely predictable that it would evolve in ways that could diminish or even eviscerate their traffic. As one online marketing expert put it, “counting on search engine traffic as your primary traffic source is a bit foolish, to say the least.”[16]

Providing guarantees (which is what a “gatekeeper” access rule accomplishes) in this situation creates a significant problem: Protecting complementors from the inherent risk in a business model in which they are entirely dependent upon another company with which they have no contractual relationship is at least as likely to encourage excessive risk taking and inefficient over-investment as it is to ensure that investment and innovation are not too low.[17]

Second, granting companies and competitors access to goods or services except in the very few and narrow cases[18] in which access to such goods and services is truly essential to sustain competition on the market sends platforms the wrong message. The message is that, after being encouraged to compete, successful companies will be punished for thriving. This is contrary to the spirit of competition law and the principle of free competition, which Bill 2768 should be careful not to eviscerate. As the great U.S. jurist Learned Hand observed in U.S. v. Aluminum Co. of America: “The successful competitor, having been urged to compete, must not be turned upon when he wins.”[19]

Furthermore, forcing companies to do business with third parties is at odds with the principle that, unless a violation of antitrust law can be ascertained, companies should be free to do business with whomever they choose.[20] Indeed, it is a cornerstone of the free market economy that “the antitrust laws [do] not impose a duty on [firms] . . . to assist [competitors] . . . to ‘survive or expand.’”[21]

Question 3

Describe cases in digital markets where there is at least one other company with substitute assets close to these assets of the main company, but none of the digital platforms that hold the asset provide access to it. In other words, even if there is more than one asset in the market, there is still a problem of accessing the asset. How could Bill 2768/2022, especially its article 10, be improved to improve access to essential supplies?

We are aware of no such cases.

Question 4

Describe cases in which the ownership of data in digital markets creates a barrier to entry that makes it very difficult or even impossible for incumbent digital platforms to enter the market. How could Bill 2768/2022 mitigate this problem, reducing the barrier to entry represented by access to data?

The extent to which data represents a barrier to entry is, in our opinion, vastly overstated. Bill 2768 should not assume that data is a barrier to entry and should assess claims to the contrary critically — especially if it intends to build a new, comprehensive regulatory regime on that assumption.[22]

In a nutshell, theories of “data as a barrier to entry” make the assertion that online data can amount to a barrier to entry, insulating incumbent services from competition and ensuring that only the largest providers thrive. This data barrier to entry, it is alleged, can then allow firms with monopoly power to harm consumers, either directly through “bad acts” like price discrimination, or indirectly by raising the costs of advertising, which then get passed on to consumers.[23]

However, the notion of data as an antitrust-relevant barrier to entry is more supposition than reality.

First, despite the rush to embrace “digital platform exceptionalism,” data is useful to all industries. “Data” is not some new phenomenon particular to online companies. It bears repeating that offline retailers also receive substantial benefit from, and greatly benefit consumers by, knowing more about what consumers want and when they want it. Through devices like coupons, membership discounts and loyalty cards (to say nothing of targeted mailing lists and the age-old practice of data mining check-out receipts), brick-and-mortar retailers can track purchase data and better serve consumers. Not only do consumers receive better deals for using them, but retailers know what products to stock and advertise and when and on what products to run sales.[24]

Of course, there are a host of other uses for data, as well, including security, fraud prevention, product optimization, risk reduction to the insured, knowing what content is most interesting to readers, etc. The importance of data stretches far beyond the online world, and far beyond mere retail uses more generally. To describe any one company as having a monopoly on data is therefore mistaken.

Second, it is not the amount of data that leads to success, but how that data is used to craft attractive products or services for users. In other words: information is important to companies because of the value that can be drawn from it, not for the inherent value of the data itself. Thus, many companies that accumulated vast amounts of data were subsequently unable to turn that data into a competitive advantage to succeed on the market. For instance, Orkut, AOL, Friendster, Myspace, Yahoo! and Flicker — to name a few — all gained immense popularity and access to significant amounts of data, but failed to retain their users because their products were ultimately lackluster.

Data is not only less important than what can be drawn from it, but data is also less important than the underlying product it informs. For instance, Snapchat created a challenger to Facebook so successfully (and in such a short time) that Facebook attempted to buy it for $3 billion (Google offered $4 billion). But Facebook’s interest in Snapchat was not about its data. Instead, Snapchat was valuable — and a competitive challenge to Facebook — because it cleverly incorporated the (apparently novel) insight that many people wanted to share information in a more private way.

Relatedly, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, TikTok (and Facebook itself) all started with little (or no) data but nevertheless found success. Meanwhile, despite its supposed data advantages, Google’s attempt at social networking, Google+, never caught up to Facebook in terms of popularity to users (and thus not to advertisers either) and shut down in 2019.

At the same, it is not the case that the alleged data giants — the ones supposedly insulating themselves behind data barriers to entry — actually have the type of data most relevant to startups anyway. As Andres Lerner has argued, if you wanted to start a travel business, the data from Kayak or Priceline (or local Decolar.com) would be far more relevant.[25] Or if you wanted to start a ride-sharing business, data from cab companies would be more useful than the broad, market-cross-cutting profiles Google and Facebook have. Consider companies like Uber and 99 that had no customer data when they began to challenge established cab companies that did possess such data. If data were really so significant, they could never have competed successfully. But Uber and 99 have been able to effectively compete because they built products that users wanted to use — they came up with an idea for a better mousetrap. The data they have accrued came after they innovated, entered the market, and mounted their successful challenges — not before.

Complaints about data facilitating unassailable competitive advantages thus have it exactly backwards. Companies need to innovate to attract consumer data, otherwise consumers will switch to competitors (including both new entrants and established incumbents). As a result, the desire to make use of more and better data drives competitive innovation, with manifestly impressive results: The continued explosion of new products, services and other apps is evidence that data is not a bottleneck to competition but a spur to drive it.

Third, competition online is (metaphorically—but not by much) one click or thumb swipe away. That is, barriers to entry and switching costs are low. Indeed, despite the alleged prevalence of data barriers to entry, competition online continues to soar, with newcomers constantly emerging and triumphing. The entry of online retailers and other digital platforms in Brazil is a case in point (See Questions 1 and 2). This suggests that the barriers to entry are not so high as to prevent robust competition.

Again, despite the supposed data-based monopolies of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and others, there exist powerful competitors in the markets they compete in:

  • If consumers want to make a purchase, they are more likely to do their research on Mercado Livre or Amazon than Google or Facebook, even with Facebook’s launch of Facebook Marketplace.
  • Google flight search has failed to seriously challenge — let alone displace — its competitors, as critics feared. Decolar.com, Kayak, Expedia, and the like remain the most prominent travel search sites — despite Google having literally purchased ITA’s trove of flight data and data-processing acumen.
  • ChatGPT, one of the most highly valued startups today, is now a serious challenger to traditional search engines.
  • TikTok has rapidly risen to challenge popular social media apps like Instagram and Facebook.

Even assuming for the sake of argument that data creates a barrier to entry, there is little evidence that consumers cannot easily switch to a competitor. While there are sometimes network effects online, like with social networking, history still shows that people will switch. Myspace was considered a dominant network until it made a series of bad business decisions, and users ended up on Facebook instead; Orkut had a similar fate. Similarly, Internet users can and do use Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, and a plethora of more specialized search engines on top of and instead of Google, and increasingly also turn to other ways to find information online (such as searching for a brand or restaurant directly on Instagram or TikTok, or asking ChatGPT a question). In fact, Google itself was once an upstart new entrant that replaced once-household names like Yahoo! and AltaVista.

Fourth, access to data is not exclusive. Data is not like oil. If, for example, Petrobras drills and extracts oil from the ground, that oil is no longer available to other companies. Data is not finite in the same way. Google knowing someone’s birthday doesn’t limit the ability of Facebook to know the same person’s birthday, as well. While databases may be proprietary, the underlying data is not. And what matters more than the data itself is how well it is analyzed (see first point). Because data is not exclusive like oil, any attempt to force the sharing of data in an attempt to help competitors creates a free-riding problem. Why go through the work of collecting valuable data on customers to learn what they want so you can better serve them when regulation mandates that Apple effectively give you the data?

In conclusion, the problem with granting competitors access to data is that data is a consequence of competition, not a prerequisite for it. Thus, rather than enhancing their ability to compete, “gifting” competitors the fruits of others’ successful attempts at competition risks destroying both groups’ incentives to design attractive products to accrue such data in the first place. By reversing the competition-data causality, Bill 2768 ultimately risks inadvertently stifling the same competition that it purportedly seeks to bolster.

Question 5

Cite cases in which a company in the digital market in Brazil used third-party data because of its characteristic as an essential input provider, harming the third party competitively?

We are not aware of any such cases.

However, the framing of this question should be clear about what is meant by “harming a third party competitively.” The use of third-party data is a key driver of competition. Even if competitors are “harmed” as a result, they are harmed only insofar as they do not match the price or quality offered by the platform.

Competition is, to a large extent, driven by the use of knowledge of rivals’ products — including their price, quality, quantity, and how they are sold and presented to consumers. In fact, the model of perfect competition largely assumes that all the products on the market are homogeneous (even if this is rarely borne out in practice). The use of third-party data to match and beat competitor’s offerings can be seen as a modern expression of this dynamic. Indeed, as we have written before:

We cannot assume that something is bad for competition just because it is bad for certain competitors. A lot of unambiguously procompetitive behavior, like cutting prices, also tends to make life difficult for competitors. The same is true when a digital platform provides a service that is better than alternatives provided by the site’s third-party sellers. […].

There’s no doubt this is unpleasant for merchants that have to compete with these offerings. But it is also no different from having to compete with more efficient rivals who have lower costs or better insight into consumer demand. Copying products and seeking ways to offer them with better features or at a lower price, which critics of self-preferencing highlight as a particular concern, has always been a fundamental part of market competition—indeed, it is the primary way competition occurs in most markets.[26]

Any per se prohibition of the use of third-party data would preclude digital platforms from using data to improve their product offering in ways that could benefit consumers.

Recommendation: Assuming that competition law and IP law are not up to the task of curbing abuses of third-party data, Bill 2768 should ensure that such prohibitions are tailor-made to cover conduct that has no other rational explanation other than seeking to exclude a competitor. It should not capture uses of third-party data that drives competition and benefit consumers, even if this results in the exit of a competitor from the market.

Question 6

Describe cases in which a difficulty in interoperability with a company’s systems makes it very difficult or impossible to enter one or more digital markets. How could Bill 2768/2022 mitigate this problem, reducing the barrier to entry represented by lack of interoperability?

We are not aware of any such cases.

However, when considering potential interoperability mandates, the government should be aware of the risks and trade-offs that come with such measures, especially in terms of safety, security, and privacy (see Question 8 for a more detailed discussion).

Question 7

The European Digital Market Act (DMA) chose to implement absolute prohibitions (per se) on some conduct in digital markets, such as self-preferencing, among others. Bill 2768/2022, on the other hand, chose not to do any prohibited conduct ex ante. Should there be one or more conducts with absolute prohibitions (per se) in Bill 2768/2022? Why? Please propose wording, explaining where in the bill it would be located?

No, there should not be absolute prohibitions on these sorts of conduct, especially without substantive experience suggesting that such conduct is always or almost always harmful and largely irredeemable (in this item, we answer the question in general terms; please see Question 8 for a discussion of why particular conduct (e.g., self-preferencing) should not be prohibited).

Regardless of the harm to the business of the targeted companies, overly broad prohibitions (or mandates) can harm consumers by chilling procompetitive conduct and discouraging innovation and investment, especially when no showing of harm is required and the law is not amenable to efficiencies arguments (like in the case of the DMA). The fact that such prohibitions apply to vastly different markets (for example, cloud services have little to do with search engines) regardless of context is also a sure sign that they are overly broad and poorly designed.

In fact, there are indications that where the DMA has been introduced, it has delayed the advance of technology. For example, Google’s “Bard” AI was rolled out later in Europe due to the EU’s uncertain and strict AI And privacy regulations.[27] Similarly, Meta’s “Threads” is not available in the EU precisely due to the constraints imposed by the DMA and the EU’s data privacy regulation (GDPR).[28] Elon Musk, X’s (formerly Twitter) CEO, has indicated that the cost of complying with EU digital regulations, such as the DSA, could prompt it to exit the European market.[29] Recently, Microsoft delayed the European rollout of its new AI, “Copilot,” because of the DMA.[30]

Apart from capturing pro-competitive conduct that benefits consumers and freezing technology in time (which would ultimately exacerbate the technological chasm between more and less advanced countries), rigid per se rules could also capture many budding companies that cannot be considered “gatekeepers” by any stretch of the imagination. This risk is especially real in the case of Brazil given the extremely low threshold for what constitutes a “gatekeeper” enshrined in Article 9 (R$70 million, or approximately USD$14 million). Thus, many Brazilian unicorns could, either immediately or in the near future, be captured by the new, restrictive rules, which could stunt their growth and chill innovative products. Ultimately, this could imperil Brazil’s current status as “[Latin America’s] most established startup hub” and cast a shadow on what The Economist has referred to as the bright future of Latin American startups.[31]

The list of harmed companies could include some of Brazil’s most promising unicorns, such as:

  • 99 (transport app)
  • Neon Bank (digital bank)
  • C6 Bank (digital bank)
  • CloudWalk (payment method)
  • Creditas (lending platform)
  • Ebanx (payment solutions)
  • Facily (social commerce)
  • com (road freight)
  • Gympass (gym aggregator and corporate benefits)
  • Hotmart (platform for selling digital products)
  • iFood (delivery)
  • Loft (real estate platform)
  • Loggi (logistics)
  • Mercado Bitcoin (cryptocurrency broker)
  • Merama (e-commerce)
  • Madeira Madeira (home and decoration products store)
  • Nubank (bank)
  • Olist (e-commerce)
  • Wildlife Studios (game developer)
  • Quinto Andar (rental platform)
  • Vtex (technology and digital commerce)
  • Unico (biometrics)
  • Dock (infrastructure)
  • Pismo (technology for payments and banking services)[32]

Question 8

Would there be behaviors in digital markets that would have a high potential to entail competitive problems, but which can be justified as generating greater efficiency for companies, transactions, and markets? Give examples of these behaviors? How should these behaviors be treated in Bill 2768/2022? In particular, a “reversal of the burden of proof” would be appropriate, in which such conduct would presumably be anti-competitive, but would it be appropriate to authorize a defense of digital platforms based on these efficiencies? Should these behaviors be considered not prohibited per se, but as a “reversal of the burden of proof” in Bill 2768/2022?

There are certain types of behavior in digital markets that have been targeted by ex-ante regulations but which are nevertheless capable of, or even central to, delivering significant procompetitive benefits. It would be unjustified and harmful to subject such conduct to per se prohibitions or to reverse the burden of proof. Instead, this type of conduct should be approached neutrally, and examined on a case-by-case basis.[33]

A.       Self-Preferencing

Self-preferencing occurs when a company gives preferential treatment to one of its own products (presumably, this type of behavior could be caught by Art. 10, paragraph II of Bill 2768). An example would be Google displaying its shopping service at the top of search results ahead of alternative shopping services. Critics of this practice argue that it puts dominant firms in competition with other firms that depend on their services, and this allows companies to leverage their power in one market to gain a foothold in an adjacent market, thus expanding and consolidating their dominance. However, this behavior can also be procompetitive and beneficial to users.

Over the past several years, a growing number of critics have argued that big tech platforms harm competition by favoring their own content over that of their complementors. Over time, this argument against self-preferencing has become one of the most prominent among those seeking to impose novel regulatory restrictions on these platforms.

According to this line of argument, complementors would be “at the mercy” of tech platforms. By discriminating in favor of their own content and against independent “edge providers,” tech platforms cause “the rewards for edge innovation [to be] dampened by runaway appropriation,” leading to “dismal” prospects “for independents in the internet economy—and edge innovation generally.”[34]

The problem, however, is that the claims of presumptive harm from self-preferencing (also known as “vertical discrimination”) are based neither on sound economics nor evidence.

The notion that platform entry into competition with edge providers is harmful to innovation is entirely speculative. Moreover, it is flatly contrary to a range of studies showing that the opposite is likely true. In reality, platform competition is more complicated than simple theories of vertical discrimination would have it,[35] and the literature establishes that there is certainly no basis for a presumption of harm.[36]

The notion that platforms should be forced to allow complementors to compete on their own terms, free of constraints or competition from platforms is a species of the idea that platforms are most socially valuable when they are most “open.” But mandating openness is not without costs, most importantly in terms of the effective operation of the platform and its own incentives for innovation.

“Open” and “closed” platforms are different ways of supplying similar services, and there is scope for competition between these alternative approaches. By prohibiting self-preferencing, a regulator might therefore close down competition to the detriment of consumers. As we have noted elsewhere:

For Apple (and its users), the touchstone of a good platform is not ‘openness,’ but carefully curated selection and security, understood broadly as encompassing the removal of objectionable content, protection of privacy, and protection from ‘social engineering’ and the like. By contrast, Android’s bet is on the open platform model, which sacrifices some degree of security for the greater variety and customization associated with more open distribution. These are legitimate differences in product design and business philosophy.[37]

Moreover, it is important to note that the appropriation of edge innovation and its incorporation into the platform (a commonly decried form of platform self-preferencing) greatly enhances the innovation’s value by sharing it more broadly, ensuring its coherence with the platform, incentivizing optimal marketing and promotion, and the like. Smartphones are now a collection of many features that used to be offered separately, such as phones, calculators, cameras and gaming consoles, and it is clear that the incorporation of these features in a single device has brought immense benefits to consumers and society as a whole. In other words, even if there is a cost in terms of reduced edge innovation, the immediate consumer welfare gains from platform appropriation may well outweigh those (speculative) losses.

Crucially, platforms have an incentive to optimize openness (and to assure complementors of sufficient returns on their platform-specific investments). This does not mean that maximum openness is optimal, however; in fact, typically a well-managed platform will exert top-down control where doing so is most important, and openness where control is least meaningful.[38]

But this means that it is impossible to know whether any particular platform constraint (including self-prioritization) on edge provider conduct is deleterious, and similarly whether any move from more to less openness (or the reverse) is harmful.

This is the situation that leads to the indeterminate and complex structure of platform enterprises. Consider the big online platforms like Google and Facebook, for example. These entities elicit participation from users and complementors by making access to their platforms freely available for a wide range of uses, exerting control over access only in limited ways to ensure high quality and performance. At the same time, however, these platform operators also offer proprietary services in competition with complementors or offer portions of the platform for sale or use only under more restrictive terms that facilitate a financial return to the platform.

The key is understanding that, while constraints on complementors’ access and use may look restrictive compared to an imaginary world without any restrictions, in such a world the platform would not be built in the first place. Moreover, compared to the other extreme — full appropriation (under which circumstances the platform also would not be built…) — such constraints are relatively minor and represent far less than full appropriation of value or restriction on access. As Jonathan Barnett aptly sums it up:

The [platform] therefore faces a basic trade-off. On the one hand, it must forfeit control over a portion of the platform in order to elicit user adoption. On the other hand, it must exert control over some other portion of the platform, or some set of complementary goods or services, in order to accrue revenues to cover development and maintenance costs (and, in the case of a for-profit entity, in order to capture any remaining profits).[39]

For instance, companies may choose to favor their own products or services because they are better able to guarantee their quality or quick delivery.[40] Mercado Livre, for instance, may be better placed to ensure that products provided by the ‘Mercado Envios logistics service are delivered in a timely manner compared to other services. Consumers may benefit from self-preferencing in other ways, too. If, for instance, Google were prevented from prioritizing Google Maps or YouTube videos in its search queries, it could be harder for users to find optimal and relevant results. If Amazon is prohibited from preferencing its own line of products on the marketplace, it may instead opt not to sell competitors’ products at all.

The power to prohibit the requiring or incentivizing of customers of one product to use another would enable the limiting or prevention of self-preferencing and other similar behavior. Granted, traditional competition law has sought to restrict the ‘bundling’ of products by requiring them to be purchased together, but to prohibit incentivization as well goes much further.

B.        Interoperability

Another mot du jour is interoperability, which might fall under Art. 10, paragraph IV of Bill 2768. In the context of digital ex ante regulation, ‘interoperability’ means that covered companies could be forced to ensure that their products integrate with those of other firms. For example, requiring a social network to be open to integration with other services and apps, a mobile operating system to be open to third-party app stores, or a messaging service to be compatible with other messaging services. Without regulation, firms may or may not choose to make their software interoperable. However, Europe’s DMA and the UK’s prospective Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill (“DMCC”),[41] will allow authorities to require it. Another example is data ‘portability,’ which allows customers to move their data from one supplier to another, in the same way that a telephone number can be kept when one changes network.

The usual argument is that the power to require interoperability might be necessary to ‘overcome network effects and barriers to entry/expansion.’ However, the Brazilian government should not overlook that this solution comes with costs to consumer choice, in particular by raising difficulties with security and privacy, as well as having questionable benefits for competition. In fact, it is not as though competition disappears when customers cannot switch as easily as they turn on a light. Companies compete upfront to attract such consumers through tactics like penetration pricing, introductory offers, and price wars.[42]

A closed system, that is, one with comparatively limited interoperability, can help limit security and privacy risks. This can encourage use of the platform and enhance the user experience. For example, by remaining relatively closed and curated, Apple’s App Store gives users the assurance that apps will meet a certain standard of security and trustworthiness. Thus, ‘open’ and ‘closed’ ecosystems are not synonymous with ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ and instead represent two different product design philosophies, either of which might be preferred by consumers. By forcing companies to operate ‘open’ platforms, interoperability obligations could thus undermine this kind of inter-brand competition and override consumer choices.

Apart from potentially damaging user experience, it is also doubtful whether some of the interoperability mandates, such as those between social media or messaging services, can achieve their stated objective of lowering barriers to entry and promoting greater competition. Consumers are not necessarily more likely to switch platforms simply because they are interoperable. In fact, there is an argument to be made that making messaging apps interoperable in fact reduces the incentive to download competing apps, as users can already interact with competitors’ apps from the incumbent messaging app.

C.       Choice Screens

Some ex-ante rules seek to address firms’ ability to influence user choice of apps through pre-installation, defaults, and the design of app stores (this could fall under Art. 10, paragraph II of Bill 2768). This has sometimes resulted in the imposition of requirements to provide users with ‘choice screens,’ for instance requiring users to choose which search engine or mapping service is installed on their phone. In this sense, it is important to understand the trade-offs at play here: choice screens may facilitate competition, but they may do so at the expense of the user experience, in terms of the time taken to make such choices. There is a risk, without evidence of consumer demand for ‘choice screens,’ that such rules impose the legislator’s preference for greater optionality over what is most convenient for users. Unless there is explicit public demand in Brazil for such measures, it would be ill-advised to implement a choice screen obligation.

D.       Size and Market Power

In general, many of the prohibitions and obligations contemplated in ex-ante rules target incumbents’ size, scalability, and “strategic significance.”

It is widely claimed that because of network effects, digital markets are prone to ‘tipping’ whereby when one producer gains a sufficient share of the market, it quickly becomes a complete or near-complete monopolist. Although they may begin as very competitive, these markets therefore exhibit a marked ‘winner takes all’ characteristic. Ex ante rules often try to avert or revert this outcome by targeting a company’s size, or by targeting companies with market power.

However, there are many investments and innovations that will – if permitted – benefit consumers, either immediately or in the longer term, but which may have some effect on enhancing market power, a companies’ size, or its strategic significance. Indeed, improving a firm’s products and thereby increasing its sales will often lead to increased market power.

Accordingly, targeting “size” or conduct which bolsters market power, without any accompanying evidence of harm, creates a serious danger of a very broad inhibition of research, innovation, and investment – all to the detriment of consumers. Insofar as such rules prevent the growth and development of incumbent firms, they may also harm competition, since it may well be these firms that – if permitted – are most likely to challenge the market power of other firms in other, adjacent markets. The cases of Disney, Apple, Amazon and Globo’s launch of video-on-demand services to compete with Netflix, and Meta’s introduction of ‘Threads’ as a challenge to Twitter (or ‘X’), appear to be an example. Here, per se rules that have the aim of prohibiting the bolstering of size or market power in one area may in fact prevent entry by one firm into a market dominated by another. In that case, policymaker action protects monopoly power. Therefore, a much subtler approach to regulation is required.

Bill 2768’s reference to Tim Wu’s The Curse of Bigness, which notoriously adopts a reductive “big is bad” ethos, suggests that it could be making a similarly flawed assumption.[43]

E.        Conclusion

We do not think it is appropriate to reverse the burden of proof in any instances in the context of digital platforms. Without substantive evidence that such conduct causes widespread harm to a well-defined public interest (e.g., similar to cartels in the context of antitrust law), there is no justification for a reversal of the burden of proof, and any such reversal of the burden of proof risks undermining consumer benefits, innovation, and discouraging investment in the Brazilian economy for a justified fear that procompetitive conduct will result in fines and remedies. By the same token, we do think that where the appointed enforcer makes a prima facie case of harm, whether in the context of antitrust law or ex-ante digital regulation, it should also be prepared to address arguments related to efficiencies.

Question 9

Is there a need for a regulator? If so, which regulator would be better able to implement the regulation provided for in Bill 2768/2022? Anatel, CADE, ANPD, another existing or new regulator? Justify.

Despite the lack of clarity concerning the law’s goals and objectives, the rules proposed by Bill 2768 appear to be competition based, at least insofar as they seek to bolster free competition, consumer protection, and tackle “abuse of economic power” (Art. 4). Therefore, the agency best positioned to enforce it would, in principle, be CADE (the goals of Act 12.529/11, the Brazilian Competition Law, overlap significantly with those under Bill 2768). Conversely, there is a palpable risk that, in discharging its duties under Bill 2768, Anatel would transpose the logic and principles of telecommunications regulation to “digital” markets, which is misguided as these are two very different things.

Not only are “digital” markets substantively different from telecommunications markets, but there is really no such thing as a clearly demarcated concept of “digital market.” For example, the digital platforms described in Art. 6, paragraph II of Bill 2768 are not homogenous, and cover a range of different business models. In addition, virtually every market today incorporates “digital” elements, such as data. Indeed, companies operating in sectors as divergent as retail, insurance, healthcare, pharma, production, and distribution have all been “digitalized.” Thus, an enforcer with a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of digitalization and, especially, the idiosyncrasies of digital platforms as two-sided markets, appears necessary. While CADE arguably lacks substantive experience with digital platforms, it is better placed to enforce Bill 2768 than Anatel because of its deep experience with the enforcement of competition policy.

Question 10

Do you think that there could be any risk of bis in idem between the regulator and the competition authority with the same conduct being analyzed by both?

Based on the EU experience, there is a risk of double jeopardy at the intersection of traditional competition law and ex-ante digital regulation.

By way of comparison, and as Giuseppe Colangelo has written, the DMA is grounded explicitly on the notion that competition law alone is insufficient to effectively address the challenges and systemic problems posed by the digital platform economy.[44] Indeed, the scope of antitrust is limited to certain instances of market power (e.g., dominance on specific markets) and of anti-competitive behavior. Further, its enforcement occurs ex post and requires extensive investigation on a case-by-case basis of what are often very complex sets of facts and may not effectively address the challenges to well-functioning markets posed by the conduct of gatekeepers, who are not necessarily dominant in competition-law terms — or so its proponents argue. As a result, regimes like the DMA invoke regulatory intervention to complement traditional antitrust rules by introducing a set of ex ante obligations for online platforms designated as gatekeepers. This also allows enforcers to dispense with the laborious process of defining relevant markets, proving dominance, and measuring market effects.

However, despite claims that the DMA is not an instrument of competition law, and thus would not affect how antitrust rules apply in digital markets, the regime does appear to blur the line between regulation and antitrust by mixing their respective features and goals. Indeed, the DMA shares the same aims and protects the same legal interests as competition law.

Further, its list of prohibitions is effectively a synopsis of past and ongoing antitrust cases, such as Google Shopping (Case T-612/17), Apple (AT.40437) and Amazon (Cases AT.40462 and AT.40703).[45] Acknowledging the continuum between competition law and the DMA, the European Competition Network (ECN) and some EU member states (self-anointed “friends of an effective DMA”) initially proposed empowering national competition authorities (NCAs) to enforce DMA obligations.[46]

Similarly, the prohibitions and obligations contemplated in Art. 10 of Bill 2768 could, in theory, all be imposed by CADE. In fact, CADE has investigated, and is still investigating, several large companies which would (likely) fall within the purview of Bill 2768, such as Google, Apple, Meta, (still under investigation) Booking.com, Decolar.com, Expedia and iFood (settled through case-and-desist agreements), and Uber (all investigations closed without penalties; following an economic study, CADE found that Uber’s entry benefitted consumers[47]). CADE’s past and current investigations against these companies already covered conducts that are targeted by the DMA and Bill 2768, such as refusal to deal, self-preferencing, and discrimination.[48] Existing competition law under Act 12.529/11, the Brazilian Competition Law, thus clearly already captures the sort of conduct which is included under Bill 2768. In addition, the requirement to use data “adequately” is likely covered by data protection regulation in Brazil (Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados, LGPD, Lei Federal Nº 13.709/2018).

The difference between the two regimes is that, while general antitrust law requires a showing of harm (even if potential) and exempts conduct with net benefits to consumers, Bill 2768 in principle does not. The only limiting principle to the prohibitions and obligations contained in Art. 10 Art. 11 (III) is the principle of proportionality — which is a general principle of constitutional law and should, in any case, apply regardless of Bill 2768. Thus, the only limiting principle of Art. 10, framed broadly, is redundant.

There is one additional complication. Bill 2768 pursues many (though not all) of the same objectives as Act 12.529/11. Insofar as these objectives are shared, it could lead to double jeopardy i.e., the same conduct being punished twice under slightly different regimes. But it could also produce contradictory results because, as pointed out above, the objectives pursued by the two bills are not identical. Act 12.529/11 is guided by the goals of “free competition, freedom of initiative, social role of property, consumer protection and prevention of the abuse of economic power” (Art. 1). To these objectives, Bill 2768 adds “reduction of regional and social inequalities,” and “increase of social participation in matters of public interest.” While it is true that these principles derive from Art. 170 of the Brazilian Constitution (“economic order”), the mismatch between the goals of Act 12.529/11 and Bill 2768 and their enforcing authorities is sufficient as to lead to situations in which conduct that is allowed or even encouraged under Act 12.529/11 is prohibited under Bill 2768. For instance, procompetitive conduct by a covered platform could nevertheless exacerbate “regional or social inequalities” because it invests heavily in one region, but not others. In a similar vein, safety, privacy, and security measures implemented by, say, an operator of an App Store, which would typically be considered beneficial for consumers under antitrust law,[49] could feasibly lead to less participation in discussions of public interest (assuming one could easily define the meaning of such a term).

Accordingly, Bill 2768 could fragment Brazil´s legal framework due to overlaps with competition law, stifle procompetitive conduct, and lead to contradictory results. This, in turn, is likely to impact legal certainty and the rule of law in Brazil, which could adversely affect Foreign Direct Investment.[50] Furthermore, coordination between CADE and Anatel is likely to be costly, if the latter ends up being the designated enforcer of Bill 2768. Brazil would essentially have two Acts pursuing the same or similar goals being implemented by two different agencies, with all the extra compliance and coordination costs that come with such duplicity.

Question 11

What is your assessment of the criteria of art. 9 of Bill 2768/2022? Should it be changed? By what criteria? Is it necessary to designate the essential service-to-service access control power holder?

This criterion seems arbitrary and, in any case, extremely low. There is no objective reason that would link “power to control access” with turnover. Furthermore, even if one admits, for the sake of argument, that turnover is a relevant indication of gatekeeper power, a R$70 million threshold would capture dozens, if not hundreds of companies active in a range of industries. This can lead to a situation in which a law that was initially — and purportedly — aimed at very specific “digital” firms, like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc., ends up, by and large, covering a host of other, comparatively small firms, including some of Brazil’s most valuable unicorns (see Question 7). On the other hand, it is also questionable from a rule of law perspective whether a law should seek to identify the specific companies it will apply to in advance.

Lessons can be drawn from the UK’s DMCC, which has made a similar mistake. Pursuant to the current proposal for a DMCC, the UK’s CMA will be able to designate a company as having “significant market status” (“SMS”) where it takes part in a ‘digital activity linked to the United Kingdom’, and, in relation to this digital activity, has ‘substantial and entrenched market power’ and is in ‘a position of strategic significance’ (s. 2), and has a turnover of at least £1 billion in the UK or £25 billion globally (s. 7).[51] The British government has previously stated that the ‘regime will be targeted at a small number of firms’.

However, except for the monetary threshold, the SMS criteria are all broadly defined, and could in theory capture as many as 530 companies (as of March 2022, there were 530 companies with more than £1 billion in revenue in the United Kingdom, according to the Office for National Statistics).[52] Thus, although the government claims that the new regime is aimed at a handful of companies, in practice the CMA will have the power to interfere in a variety of new ways across wide swaths of the economy.

Article 9 of Bill 2768 runs into a similar problem. Granted, it identifies the types of services to which the Bill would apply in a way that the DMCC does not. However, some of the categories envisaged are still very broad: for example, online intermediation services could cover any website that connects buyers and sellers or facilitates transactions between two parties. “Operating systems” are prevalent electronic devices well beyond Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Indeed, an operating system is just a program or set of programs of a computer system, which manages the physical resources (hardware), the execution protocols of the rest of the content (software), as well as the user interface. They can be found in many everyday devices, either through graphical user interfaces, desktop environments, window managers or command lines, depending on the nature of the device.

Companies delivering these services, no matter their competitive position, market share, the industry they are a part of, or any other economic or factual considerations, would all be caught by Bill 2768, as long as they fulfilled the (low) R$70 million threshold. The upshot is that the enforcer will be able to apply Bill 2768 against a host of wildly different companies, some of which might not really be in a position to harm competition or misuse their market power. As a consequence, the Bill risks discouraging growth, innovation and, indeed, success, as companies become wary of growing past a certain threshold for fear of being caught in the regulator’s crosshairs. Coupled with a reversal of the burden of proof and the possibility of ignoring efficiencies arguments, the Bill would give the enforcer massive, unchecked powers, which could raise rule of law issues.

This problem can be remedied, at least to some extent, by adding a series of qualitative criteria that may or may not work cumulatively with the quantitative thresholds laid down in the Bill. These criteria should require a showing that the companies in question control access to essential facilities, that such facilities cannot be reasonably replicated, and that access is being denied with the threat that competition on the market may be eliminated (refer to Question 1 for discussion on integrating the essential facilities doctrine into Bill 2768). In addition, Bill 2768 should leverage existing measurements of market power from competition law, such as the ability to control output and increase prices. Quantitative criteria, if used, should be significantly higher and also refer to the number of active users on each platform service covered. “Active user” should in this sense be defined as a user who uses a specific service at least once daily and, at a minimum, once weekly.

Question 12

What did you think of the rules on the Digital Platforms Supervisory Fund in art. 15 of Bill 2768/2022? Is there another way to finance this type of government regulatory activity?

There are many ways of financing governmental regulatory activity that do not require the targeted companies to pay an annual tax. Government agencies are typically financed from the general government budget — and it should be the same for the agency enforcing Bill 2768.

There are at least two issues with the current approach under Art. 15. The first is capture. If an agency’s activity is funded by the regulated companies, this can lead to the capture of the agency by the regulated company and facilitate rent-seeking — i.e., the situation in which a company uses the regulator to gain an unfair advantage over rivals. Second, it also creates an incentive on the part of the agency, and the government, to widen the scope of the targeted companies, as a way to secure more funding and resources. This creates a perverse incentive that does not align with the public interest. It also discourages investment and, in a sense, is tantamount to a racket by the government.

Moreover, to the extent that the Bill operates as a direct and targeted constraint on certain companies’ exercise of their economic liberty and private property rights for the presumed benefit of the public welfare, it seems appropriate that it should be funded by general-revenue funds, apportioned according to current tax policy over the entire tax-paying population.

Question 13

To what extent do you believe that all the problems addressed in Bill 2768/2022 are already adequately addressed by competition law, more specifically by CADE, with the instruments of Law No. 12,529 of 2011?

Please see the response to Question 10.

The fact that the government is asking this question at this stage in the process suggests that perhaps the scope and the particulars of Bill 2768 have not been thoroughly thought out. Bill 2768 should be passed only if it is clear that Brazilian competition law is not up to the task. By comparison, and as indicated in the answer to Question 10 above, virtually all of the conduct in the EU’s DMA has also been addressed through EU competition law — often in the Commission’s favor. However, the EU wanted to codify a set of rules that would ensure that the Commission did not have to litigate cases before the courts and would win every case — or at least the vast majority of cases — against digital platforms. But this decision, which one may or may not agree with, came after at least some experience applying competition law to digital platforms and a determination that the gains of such an approach would outweigh the manifest costs.

Conversely, Brazil’s CADE enjoys much more limited experience in this sense, and Brazil itself presents very different economic realities and consumer interests that may not yield the same cost/benefit analysis. As mentioned above, the only “penalties” CADE has imposed against “digital platforms” resulted from voluntary settlements, meaning there has been limited need to litigate “digital” cases in Brazil. There is a lingering sense that Bill 2768 has been proposed not in response to deficiencies in the existing competition law framework, or in response to identified needs particular to Brazil, but as a response to “global trends” initiated by the EU.

Art. 13 of Bill 2768, for example, provides that mergers by covered companies will be scrutinized pursuant to the general competition law rules applicable to other companies and in other sectors. It is unclear why the same logic could not apply across the board — i.e., to all potentially anticompetitive conduct by targeted companies. Why does some conduct which can be addressed through antitrust law necessitate special regulation, but not others?

Question 14

What problems could be generated for the innovation activity of digital platforms if there is the regulation of digital platforms proposed by Bill 2768/2022? Could this be dealt with in any way within Bill 2768/2022?

Indeed, it is by no means clear that Brazil’s particular circumstances are amenable to an “ex ante” approach similar to that of the EU.

Broad prohibitions and obligations such as the ones imposed by Art. 10 of Bill 2768 risk chilling innovative conduct and freezing technology in place. As the tenth ranked country in the global information technology market and with hundreds of startups in the AI sector, Brazil is a burgeoning market with tremendous potential.[53] Its 214 million population means that growth trends are poised to continue — and, sure enough, the number of app jobs grew by 54% in 2023 compared to 2019.[54]

However, static, strict rules such as those envisioned by Bill 2768 can nip the growth of Brazilian startups in the bud by imposing unsurmountable regulatory costs (which would, in any case, benefit incumbents compared to smaller competitors) and banning conduct capable of fostering growth, benefiting consumers, and igniting competition, such as self-preferencing and refusal to deal.

Indeed, both practices can — and often are — socially beneficial. As discussed in Question 8, despite its recent malignment by some policymakers, “self-preferencing” is normal business conduct and a key reason for efficient vertical integration, which avoids double marginalization and allows companies to better coordinate production, distribution, and sale more efficiently — all to the ultimate benefits of consumers. For example, retail services such as Amazon self-preferencing their own delivery services, as in the case of “Fulfilled by Amazon,” gives consumers something they value tremendously: a guarantee of quick delivery. As we have written elsewhere:

Amazon’s granting marketplace privileges to [Fulfilled by Amazon] products may help users to select the products that Amazon can guarantee will best satisfy their needs. This is perfectly plausible, as customers have repeatedly shown that they often prefer less open, less neutral options.[55]

In a recent report, the Australian Competition Commission recognized as much, stating that self-preferencing is often benign and can lead to procompetitive benefits.[56] Indeed, there are many legitimate reasons why companies may choose to self-preference, including better customer experience, customer service, more relevant choice (curation), and lower prices.[57] Thus, banning self-preferencing, or otherwise significantly discouraging companies from engaging in self-preferencing, could hamstring company growth — including by Brazilian companies that are currently in an early stage of development — and impede market entry by companies who could have been innovators.

Similarly, forcing companies to deal with third parties could stifle innovation by incentivizing free-riding and discouraging companies from making investments. Indeed, why would a company innovate or invest if it knows it will then have to share such investments and innovations with passive rivals who have undertaken none of these risks? The consequence is a stalemate where, rather than fighting to be the first to innovate and enjoy the fruits borne of such innovation, companies are rather encouraged to game the system by waiting for others to make the first step and then free riding on their achievements. This essentially upends the process of dynamic competition by artificially rearranging the incentive to innovate and invest vs. the incentive to free ride, reducing the benefits of the former and increasing the benefits of the latter.

It would be catastrophic to drive a wedge in Brazil’s ability to grow its technology sector and innovate — especially considering the country’s vast potential. Indeed, rather than a triumph of regulation over innovation, Brazil should strive to be precisely the opposite.[58]

Question 15

What would be the practical difficulties of applying this type of legislation contemplated by Bill 2768/2022?

Funds to finance what could be a considerable amount of enforcement are necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure effectiveness. In the EU, the Commission’s DG Competition, one of the world’s foremost and best-endowed competition authorities, has famously struggled to hire the staff necessary to implement the Digital Markets Act. In short, “DMA experts” currently do not exist — and the Commission will either have to train such experts itself or hire them when expertise develops through enforcement. But this creates a chicken-and-egg scenario, where enforcement — or at least good enforcement — cannot happen without good experts, and good experts cannot materialize without enforcement. There is no reason to believe that these considerations do not map onto the Brazilian context.

Brazil faces an additional challenge, however: attracting talent. Unlike in the EU, where posts at the Commission are highly coveted due to the high salaries, perks, and job security they confer, CADE’s resources are more modest and likely cannot compete fully with the private sector. Thus, before passing Bill 2768, the government should be clear on how the law would be enforced, and by whom.

Other issues include the heavy compliance burden of the Bill, which will affect not only the so-called “tech giants” but any company above the modest R$70 million turnover threshold, the difficulties in interpreting the ambiguous prohibitions and obligations contemplated in Art. 10 (and the litigation which may ensue, on which see Question 16), the cost of crafting of adequate remedies within the meaning of Art. 10, and the looming possibility that the Bill will capture procompetitive conduct and stifle innovation. As we have written with respect to ASEAN countries and the possibility of implementing EU-style competition regulation there:

The ASEAN nations exhibit extremely diverse policies regarding the role of government in the economy. Put simply, some of the ASEAN nations seem ill-suited to the far-reaching technocracy that almost inevitably flows from adopting the European model of competition enforcement. Others might simply not have sufficient resources to staff agencies that could, satisfactorily, undertake the type of far-reaching investigations that the European Commission is famous for.[59]

Question 16

Do you see a lot of room for the judicialization of this type of regulation provided for in Bill 2768/2022? On what devices?

The enforcement of Bill 2768 is likely to lead to substantial litigation, not least because many of the core concepts of the Bill are ambiguous and open to interpretation.

For instance, what does “discriminatory” conduct within the meaning of Art. 10, para. II entail? Can a covered platform treat business users differently based on objective criteria, such as quality, history, and trustworthiness, or must all business users be treated equally? In this sense, it is uncertain whether the specific meaning ascribed to “discriminatory conduct” under competition law applies in this context. Similarly, what does “adequate” use of data collected in the exercise of a firm’s activities mean (paragraph III)? Does paragraph IV of Art. 10 imply that a covered platform can never deny access to business users? Presumably, covered platforms will want to know how and why this general obligation deviates from the narrower essential facilities doctrine under Brazilian competition law.

Art. 11 adds certain caveats to this, such as that intervention should be tailored, proportionate and consider the impact, costs, and benefits. Again, what sort of impact, costs and benefits are relevant — on consumers, business users, the covered platform, society as a whole?

If this is anything to go by, Bill 2768 is likely to be a legally contentious one.

Question 17

Are the definitions in article 6 of Bill 2768/2022 adequate for the purpose of this proposal?

Art. 6 and, indeed, the entire impetus behind Bill 2768, rests on two questionable assumptions:

  1. That covered products and services are different from other products or services; and
  2. That these products and services are sufficiently similar to be considered (and regulated) as a group.

The former would be more convincing if the remedies contemplated by the Bill, such as non-discrimination, adequate use of data, and access, had not been previously used in other markets and for other products. Granting access on “Fair, Reasonable, and Nondiscriminatory” (“FRAND”) terms is often used in the context of competition law and IP law, both of which apply across industries. The duty to use data “adequately” is generally contemplated by data protection laws, which also apply broadly. The same can be said for access obligations, which are frequent under competition law and in regulated industries (such as telecommunications or railways).

In addition, neither the products and services in Art. 6 of the Bill, the companies that operate them, nor the business models they employ are monolithic. Voice assistants and social media, for instance, are vastly different products. The same can be said about cloud computing, which is not really a “platform” in the sense that, say, online intermediation is. The products and services in Art. 6 themselves are also highly heterogeneous, with a single category encompassing a motley list of products, from e-commerce to online maps and app stores.

The same argument applies to the companies that sell these products and services, which — despite the ubiquitous “Big Tech” moniker — are ultimately very different firms.[60] As Apple CEO Tim Cook has said: “Tech is not monolithic. That would be like saying ‘All restaurants are the same’ or ‘All TV networks are the same.’”[61]

For instance, while Google (Alphabet) and Facebook (Meta) are information-technology firms that specialize in online advertising, Apple remains primarily an electronics company, with around 75% of its revenue coming from the sale of iMacs, iPhones, iPads, and accessories. As Amanda Lotz of the University of Michigan has observed:

The profits on those [hardware] sales let Apple use very different strategies than the non-hardware [“Big Tech”] companies with which it is often compared.[62]

It also means that most of its other businesses — such as iMessage, iTunes, Apple Pay, etc. — are complements that “Apple uses strategically to support its primary focus as a hardware company.” Amazon, on the other hand, is primarily a retailer, with its Amazon Web Services and advertising divisions accounting for just 15% and 7% of the company’s revenue, respectively.[63]

Even when two “gatekeepers” are active in the same products/service market, they often have markedly different business models and practices. Thus, despite both selling mobile-phone operating systems, Android (Google) and Apple employ very different product-design philosophies. As we argued in an amicus curiae brief submitted last month to the U.S. Supreme Court in Apple v. Epic Games:

For Apple and its users, the touchstone of a good platform is not “openness,” but carefully curated selection and security, understood broadly as encompassing the removal of objectionable content, protection of privacy, and protection from “social engineering,” and the like.… By contrast, Android’s bet is on the open platform model, which sacrifices some degree of security for the greater variety and customization associated with more open distribution. These are legitimate differences in product design and business philosophy.[64]

These various companies and markets have diverse incentives, strategies, and product designs, therefore belying the idea that there is any economically and technically coherent notion of what comprises “gatekeeping.” In other words, both the products and services that would be subject to Art. 6 of Bill 2768 and those companies themselves are highly heterogeneous, and it is unclear why they are placed under the same umbrella.

Question 18

Instead of pure ex-ante regulation, would any other type of monitoring and/or regulation of digital markets make sense?

A special unit within CADE, operating within the limits of current antitrust laws, should be seriously assessed before rushing to adopt far-reaching, ex-ante regulation in digital markets. Most of the conduct covered by ex-ante regulation in the EU, for example, is spun off from competition law cases. This suggests that such conduct falls within the limits of traditional competition law and can be properly addressed through EU competition law.

Accordingly, a digital unit within CADE would leverage the expertise of staff with a background in applying antitrust law to “digital markets.” Chances are that, if such a unit cannot be formed within CADE, which boasts staff with the expertise that most closely resembles what would be required to enforce Bill 2768, it likely cannot be formed anywhere else — at least not without siphoning off talent from CADE. This would be a mistake, as CADE has a critical role in suppressing behavior that unambiguously harms the public interest, such as cartels (arguably, this is where Brazil should be focusing its resources).[65] Creating a new unit to prosecute novel conduct with uncertain effects on social welfare at the expense of suppressing conduct that is manifestly harmful does not pass a cost-benefit analysis and would ultimately damage Brazil’s economy.

Question 19

Do you think that the set of solutions described in art. 10 of Bill 2768/2022 are adequate?

It is difficult to answer this question without a clear notion of what Bill 2768 aims to achieve. Adequate for what?

Question 20

Are the set of sanctions provided for in art. 16 of Bill 2768/2022 adequate?

This is also difficult to answer. If the objective is to thwart all proscribed conduct, no matter the consequences for innovation, investment, and consumer satisfaction, then a high fine is called for — and many companies will stop doing business as a result (which will very effectively stop all undesirable behavior – but also all desirable behavior). If raising revenue is the objective, then the amount of enforcement times the level of sanction needs to be low enough to operate not as a bar to behavior but a fee for doing business. We do not know if the level of sanctions in Art. 16 is appropriate for this — nor, we hasten to add, should this ever be the intention of such a law!

On the other hand, if optimal deterrence is the objective, imposing sanctions considerably lower than those in the EU (as a sanction of 2% of the infringing companies’ Brazilian turnover would be) appears reasonable. Fines for antitrust infringements in the EU can be up to 10% of the company’s worldwide turnover; and fines for violations of the DMA can even reach 20%.[66] But Brazil should not seek to deter investment and innovation to the extent the EU has.

It is, of course, difficult to identify a causal link between competition fines and investment/innovation. But what we do know is this: The pace of economic growth in Europe has lagged that of the U.S. by a significant margin:

Fifteen years ago, the size of the European economy was 10% larger than that of the U.S., however, by 2022 it was 23% smaller. The GDP of the European Union (including UK before Brexit) has grown in this period by 21% (measured in dollars), compared to 72% for the US and 290% for China.[67]

Meanwhile, none of the world’s 10 largest technology companies, and only two of the 25 largest, are based in Europe.[68] And the large U.S. and Asian multinationals are spread across the entire technology industry, from electronic components (chips, mobile phones and computers) to app development companies, websites, and e-commerce. There may be many reasons for these discrepancies, but one of them is almost certainly the differences in the economic regulatory environments, including the extent of competition-law overdeterrence.[69]

Question 21

Article 10 provides for several obligations in a non-exhaustive list on which the regulator could impose other measures. Should an exhaustive list of measures be envisaged?

Exhaustive lists have the advantage of fostering predictability and cabining the enforcer’s discretion, thus limiting rent-seeking, and ensuring that enforcement stays tethered to the public interest. Assuming, of course, that the sort of measures which are envisaged act in the public interest in the first place.

The problem with how Bill 2768 is framed in its current state is that it is too open-ended. It is understandable that Bill 2768 does not want to tie the enforcers’ hands and has opted for bespoke interventions rather than blanket prohibitions and obligations. This is to be welcomed. However, it should not come at the expense of legal certainty, and it must not fail to impose limits on the enforcer’s discretion. This currently does not seem to be the case.

Article 10 thus provides that platform operators will be subject to “amongst others, the following obligations…” It is not clear, from this numerus apertus list, what the enforcer can and cannot do. But the problem is deeper than just Article 10; nowhere in the Bill is it explained what the goals of the new rules are. The proposed redrafting of Article 19-A of Law 9.472 of 16 July 1997 states, in paragraphs III, IV, and V is vague – it does not impose sufficiently clear limiting principles on the Bill’s reach. Indeed, it suggests that the goals of Bill 2768 would be to prevent conflicts of interest, prevent infringements of user’s rights, and prevent economic infringements by digital platforms in areas which are competence of CADE. Article 4 of Bill 2768 includes other goals: freedom of initiative, free competition, consumer protection, a reduction in regional and social inequality, repressing economic power and bolstering social participation. Elsewhere, it is implied that the goal is to diminish “gatekeeper power” (under “Justifications”).

In other words, it is not clear what Bill 2768 doesn’t empower the enforcer to do.

Furthermore, the prohibitions and obligations in Paragraphs I-IV of Art. 10 are similarly opaque. For instance, what is “adequate” use of collected data? (III). Does paragraph IV imply that a targeted platform may never refuse access to their service? In fact, one thing that is missing from Bill 2768 is the ability to escape a prohibition or obligation by demonstrating efficiencies or through an objective justification (such as, e.g., safety and security or privacy).

Clearly, Bill 2768 cannot predict all of the instances in which Art. 10 will be used. But, in order to strike a balance between the enforcer’s nimbleness and the law’s administrability and predictability, it needs to give a more focused account of the Bill’s goals, and how the provisions in Art. 10 help to achieve them. In other words: Articles 3, 4, and 10 need to be much clearer. Otherwise, the Bill risks doing more harm than good to targeted companies, business users, competitors, and ultimately, consumers. The “Justifications” section of the Bill states that it does not wish to impose a “straitjacket” on targeted companies through the imposition of strict ex ante rules. This is reasonable, especially considering the lack of evidence of unambiguous harm. But granting an enforcer like Anatel, which lacks experience in “digital markets,” broadly defined powers to intervene on the basis of equally broad goals amounts to imposing a straitjacket by another name. In a regulatory “panopticon” in which companies are never sure of what is and is not allowed, some might reasonably choose not to take risks, innovate, and bring new products to the market —because they do not wish to risk being subject to fines (Art. 16) and potential structural remedies, like break-ups (Art. 10, paragrafo unico). In other words, they might assume that much more is prohibited than is actually prohibited.

[1] PL 2768/2022, Dispõe sobre a organização, o funcionamento e a operação das plataformas digitais que oferecem serviços ao público brasileiro e dá outras providências, available at https://www.camara.leg.br/proposicoesWeb/fichadetramitacao?idProposicao=2337417.

[2] REGULATION (EU) 2022/1925 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 14 September 2022, on contestable and fair markets in the digital sector and amending Directives (EU) 2019/1937 and (EU) 2020/1828 (Digital Markets Act).

[3] https://www.mercadosdigitais.org/.

[4] Case C-7/97 Bronner, EU:C:1998:569.

[5] See, e.g., Commissioner Ana Frazão’s majority decision in Procedure No. 08012.003918/2005-14 (Defendant: Telemar Norte Leste S.A.), paras. 60-62, https://tinyurl.com/4dc38vvk.

[6] See Commissioner Mauricio Maia’s reporting majority decision in Administrative Procedure No. 08012.010483/2011-94 (Defendants: Google Inc. and Google Brasil Internet Ltda.), paras. 180-94; 224-42, https://tinyurl.com/3c9emytw.

[7] A 2021 report by IBRAC identified the high entry rate into the market of online sales platforms. See IBRAC, Revista do Revista do IBRAC Número 2-2021, available at https://ibrac.org.br/UPLOADS/PDF/RevistadoIBRAC/Revista_do_IBRAC_2_2021.pdf.

[8] Bronner, Para. 67.

[9] See Colangelo, G., The Digital Markets Act and EU Antitrust Enforcement: Double & Triple Jeopardy, ICLE White Paper (2022), available at https://laweconcenter.org/resources/the-digital-markets-act-and-eu-antitrust-enforcement-double-triple-jeopardy.

[10] CADE, Mercados de Plataformas Digitais, SEPN 515 Conjunto D, Lote 4, Ed. Carlos Taurisano CEP: 70.770-504 – Brasília/DF, available at https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/Caderno_Plataformas-Digitais_Atualizado_29.08.pdf.

[11] On the notion that DMA-style rules are “sector-specific competition law,” see Nicolas Petit, The Proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA): A Legal and Policy Review, 12 J. Eur. Compet. Law & Pract. 529 (May 11, 2021).

[12] See Verizon Communications, Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398 (2003). “Compelling such firms to share the source of their advantage is in some tension with the underlying purpose of antitrust law, since it may lessen the incentive for the monopolist, the rival, or both to invest in those economically beneficial facilities.”

[13] Hou, L., The Essential Facilities Doctrine – What Was Wrong in Microsoft?, 43(4) International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law 251-71, 260 (2012).

[14] See Williamson, O.E., The Vertical Integration of Production: Market Failure Considerations, 61 Am. Econ. Rev. 112 (1971); Klein, B., Asset Specificity and Holdups, in The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics, P. G. Klein & M. Sykuta, eds. (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010), 120–126.

[15] Commission Decision No. AT.39740 — Google Search (Shopping).

[16] A. Hoffman, Where Does Website Traffic Come From: Search Engine and Referral Traffic, Traffic Generation Café (Dec. 25, 2018), https://trafficgenerationcafe.com/website-traffic-source-search-engine-referral.

[17] See Manne, G., Against the Vertical Discrimination Presumption, Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267 (May 2020), https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword.

[18] On the need for caution when granting a right to access see, for example, Trinko: “We have been very cautious in recognizing such exceptions [to the right of [a] trader or manufacturer engaged in an entirely private business, freely to exercise his own independent discretion as to parties with whom he will deal], because of the uncertain virtue of forced sharing and the difficulty of identifying and remedying anticompetitive conduct by a single firm.”

[19] United States v. Aluminum Co. of America, 148 F.2d 416, 430 (2d Cir. 1945).

[20] “Thus, as a general matter, the Sherman Act ‘does not restrict the long recognized right of [a] trader or manufacturer engaged in an entirely private business, freely to exercise his own independent discretion as to parties with whom he will deal.’” United States v. Colgate & Co., 250 U. S. 300, 307 (1919).

[21] Foremost Pro Color, Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 703 F.2d 534, 545 (9th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted).

[22] See Manne, G. & B. Sperry, Debunking the Myth of a Data Barrier to Entry for Online Services, Truth on the Market (Mar. 26, 2015), https://truthonthemarket.com/2015/03/26/debunking-the-myth-of-a-data-barrier-to-entry-for-online-services; Manne, G. & B. Sperry (2014). The Law and Economics of Data and Privacy in Antitrust Analysis, 2014 TPRC Conference Paper, available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2418779.

[23] See generally, Grunes, A. & M. Stucke, Big Data and Competition Policy (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016); Newman, N, Antitrust and the Economics of the Control of User Data, 30 Yale Journal on Regulation 3 (2014).

[24] See the examples discussed in Manne, G. & B. Sperry, Debunking the Myth of a Data Barrier to Entry for Online Services, Truth on the Market (Mar. 26, 2015), https://truthonthemarket.com/2015/03/26/debunking-the-myth-of-a-data-barrier-to-entry-for-online-services.

[25] Lerner, A., The Role of ‘Big Data’ in Online Platform Competition (2014), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2482780.

[26] Bowman, S. & G. Manne, Platform Self-Preferencing Can Be Good for Consumers and Even Competitors, Truth on the Market (Mar. 4, 2021), https://truthonthemarket.com/2021/03/04/platform-self-preferencing-can-be-good-for-consumers-and-even-competitors.

[27] C. Goujard, Google Forced to Postpone Bard Chatbot’s EU Launch Over Privacy Concerns, Politico (Jun. 13, 2023), https://www.politico.eu/article/google-postpone-bard-chatbot-eu-launch-privacy-concern.

[28] M. Kelly, Here’s Why Threads Is Delayed in Europe, The Verge (Jul. 10, 2023), https://www.theverge.com/23789754/threads-meta-twitter-eu-dma-digital-markets.

[29] Musk Considers Removing X Platform From Europe Over EU Law, Euractiv (Oct. 19, 2023), https://www.euractiv.com/section/platforms/news/musk-considers-removing-x-platform-from-europe-over-eu-law.

[30] Jud, M., Still No Copilot in Europe: Microsoft Rolls Out 23H2 Update, Digitec.ch (Nov. 1, 2023), https://www.digitec.ch/en/page/still-no-windows-copilot-in-europe-microsoft-rolls-out-23h2-update-30279.

[31] The Future is Bright for Latin American Startups, The Economist (Nov.13, 2023), available at https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2023/11/13/the-future-is-bright-for-latin-american-startups.

[32] See Distrito, Panorama Tech América Latina (2023), available at https://static.poder360.com.br/2023/09/latam-report-1.pdf.

[33] The following is adapted from Manne, G., Against the Vertical Discrimination Presumption, Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267 (May 2020) https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword and our comments on the UK’s proposed Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (“DMCC”) Bill: Auer, D., M. Lesh & L. Radic (2023). Digital Overload: How the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill’s Sweeping New Powers Threaten Britain’s Economy, 4 IEA Perspectives 16-21 (2023), available at https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Perspectives_4_Digital-overload_web.pdf.

[34] H. Singer, How Big Tech Threatens Economic Liberty, The Am. Conserv. (May 7, 2019), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-big-tech-threatens-economic-liberty.

[35] Most of these theories, it must be noted, ignore the relevant and copious strategy literature on the complexity of platform dynamics. See, e.g., J. M. Barnett, The Host’s Dilemma: Strategic Forfeiture in Platform Markets for Informational Goods, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 1861 (2011); D. J. Teece, Profiting from Technological Innovation: Implications for Integration, Collaboration, Licensing and Public Policy, 15 Res. Pol’y 285 (1986); A. Hagiu & K. Boudreau, Platform Rules: Multi-Sided Platforms as Regulators, in Platforms, Markets and Innovation, A. Gawer, ed. (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009); K. Boudreau, Open Platform Strategies and Innovation: Granting Access vs. Devolving Control, 56 Mgmt. Sci. 1849 (2010).

[36] For examples of this literature and a brief discussion of its findings, see Manne, G., Against the Vertical Discrimination Presumption, Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267 (May 2020), https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword.

[37] International Center for Law & Economics, International Center for Law & Economics Amicus Curiae Brief Submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 20-21 (2022), https://tinyurl.com/ywu553vb.

[38] See generally, Hagiu & Boudreau, Platform Rules: Multi-Sided Platforms as Regulators, supra note 31; Barnett, The Host’s Dilemma, supra note 31.

[39] Barnett, J., id.

[40] See Radic, L. and G. Manne, Amazon Italy’s Efficiency Offense, Truth on the Market (Jan. 11, 2022), https://tinyurl.com/2uht4fvw.

[41] Introduced as Bill 294 (2022-23), currently HL Bill 12 (2023-24), Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, available at https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3453.

[42] Farrell, J., & P. Klemperer Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects, 3 Handbook of Industrial Organization1967-2072 (2007), available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1573448X06030317.

[43] Bill 2768, “Justifications.” See also Wu, T, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Columbia Global Reports (2018).

[44] Colangelo, G., The Digital Markets Act and EU Antitrust Enforcement: Double & Triple Jeopardy, ICLE White Paper 2022-03-23 (2022), available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Giuseppe-Double-triple-jeopardy-final-draft-20220225.pdf.

[45] See also Caffarra, C. and F. Scott Morton, The European Commission Digital Markets Act: A Translation, Vox EU (Jan. 5, 2021), https://voxeu.org/article/european-commission-digital-markets-act-translation.

[46] How National Competition Agencies Can Strengthen the DMA, European Competition Network (Jun. 22, 2021), available at https://ec.europa.eu/competition/ecn/DMA_joint_EU_NCAs_paper_21.06.2021.pdf.

[47] For the full study, see https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/documentos-de-trabalho/2018/documento-de-trabalho-n01-2018-efeitos-concorrenciais-da-economia-do-compartilhamento-no-brasil-a-entrada-da-uber-afetou-o-mercado-de-aplicativos-de-taxi-entre-2014-e-2016.pdf.

[48] For a detailed overview of CADE’s decisions in digital platforms and payments services, see https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/mercado-de-instrumentos-de-pagamento-2019.pdf; https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/Caderno_Plataformas-Digitais_Atualizado_29.08.pdf.

[49] See, e.g., Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. 20-cv-05640-YGR.

[50] Staats, J. L., & G. Biglaiser, Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America: The Importance of Judicial Strength and Rule of Law, 56(1) International Studies Quarterly 193–202 (2012), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00690.x.

 

[51] HL Bill 12 (2023-24), Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3453.

[52] Auer, D., M. Lesh, & L. Radic (2023). Digital Overload: How the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill’s Sweeping New Powers Threaten Britain’s Economy, 4 IEA Perspectives 16-21, available at https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Perspectives_4_Digital-overload_web.pdf.

[53] See Dailey, M. Why the US Rejected European Style Digital Markets Regulation: Considerations for Brazil’s Tech Landscape, Progressive Policy Institute (Oct. 2, 2023), pp 5-6, available at https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/PPI-Brazil-EU-Tech.pdf.

[54] Id.

[55] See Radic, L. and G. Manne, Amazon Italy’s Efficiency Offense. Truth on the Market (Jan. 11, 2022), available at https://tinyurl.com/2uht4fvw.

[56] ACCC, Digital Platform Services Inquiry, Discussion Paper for Interim Report No. 5: Updating Competition and Consumer Law for Digital Platform Services (Feb. 2022), available at https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20platform%20services%20inquiry.pdf.

[57] Bowman, S. & G. Manne, Platform Self-Preferencing Can Be Good for Consumers and Even Competitors, Truth on the Market (Mar. 4, 2021), https://laweconcenter.wpengine.com/2021/03/04/platform-self-preferencing-can-be-good-for-consumers-and-even-competitors.

 

[58] See Portuese, A. The Digital Markets Act: A Triumph of Regulation Over Innovation, ITIF Schumpeter Project (Aug. 24, 2022), available at https://itif.org/publications/2022/08/24/digital-markets-act-a-triumph-of-regulation-over-innovation.

 

[59] Auer, D., G. Manne & S. Bowman, Should ASEAN Antitrust Laws Emulate European Competition Policy?, 67(5) Singapore Economic Review 1637–1697, 1687 (2022).

[60]See Lotz, A. ‘Big Tech’ Isn’t a Monolith. It’s 5 Companies, All in Different Businesses, Houston Chronicle (Mar. 26, 2018), https://www.houstonchronicle.com/techburger/article/Big-Tech-isn-t-a-monolith-It-s-5-companies-12781761.php; see also Chaiehloudj, W. & Petit, N. On Big Tech and The Digital Economy, Competition Forum (Jan. 11, 2021), https://competition-forum.com/on-big-tech-and-the-digital-economy-interview-with-professor-nicolas-petit.

[61] Asher Hamilton, I. Tim Cook Says He’s Tired of Big Tech Being Painted as a ‘Monolithic’ Force That Needs Tearing Apart, Business Insider (May 7, 2019), https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-tired-of-big-tech-being-viewed-as-monolithic-2019-5.

[62] Lotz, 2018.

[63] G. Cuofano, Amazon Revenue Breakdown, Four Week MBA (Aug. 10, 2023), https://fourweekmba.com/amazon-revenue-breakdown.

[64] International Center for Law & Economics, International Center for Law & Economics Amicus Curiae Brief Submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court (2022), available at https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/ICLE-Amicus-Apple-v-Epic-SCt-10.27.23-FINAL.pdf.

[65] See Zúñiga, M. Latin America Should Follow Its Own Path on Digital-Markets Competition, Truth on the Market (Nov. 7, 2023), https://truthonthemarket.com/2023/11/07/latin-america-should-follow-its-own-path-on-digital-markets-competition.

[66] As pointed out in Question 10, however, there is a risk of double jeopardy considering that some of the conduct caught by Bill 2768 might also be covered by Brazilian competition law. In such cases, the 2% would be compounded by the penalties contemplated under Act 12.529/11, the Brazilian competition law, and the level could easily be too high.

[67] Weekly Foreign Policy Report No. 1329: A Europe Vassal to the US?, Política Exterior (Jun. 26, 2023) https://www.politicaexterior.com/articulo/una-europa-vasalla-de-eeuu.

[68] See, e.g., 100 Biggest Technology Companies in the World, Yahoo Finance (Aug. 23, 2023), available at https://finance.yahoo.com/news/100-biggest-technology-companies-world-175211230.html.

[69] See, e.g., Weekly Foreign Policy Report No. 1329: A Europe Vassal to the US?, Política Exterior (Jun. 26, 2023) https://www.politicaexterior.com/articulo/una-europa-vasalla-de-eeuu.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Jogando o Jogo da Imitação na Regulação de Mercados Digitais – Uma Análise Cautelar para o Brasil

Regulatory Comments Introdução Em 11 de outubro de 2022, João Maia (Deputado Federal, Partido Liberal) propôs o Projeto de Lei 2768/22 (“Projeto de Lei 2768” ou “Projeto”), . . .

Introdução

Em 11 de outubro de 2022, João Maia (Deputado Federal, Partido Liberal) propôs o Projeto de Lei 2768/22 (“Projeto de Lei 2768” ou “Projeto”), que traz uma proposta de regulação de mercados digitais. [1] O Projeto de Lei 2768 é a resposta brasileira a tendências globais em direção à regulamentação ex-ante das plataformas digitais, sendo pelo menos parcialmente inspirado no Regulamento dos Mercados Digitais da União Europeia (“DMA”).[2] Em nossa contribuição à consulta pública sobre o Projeto de Lei (“Consulta”), argumentamos que o Brasil deve ter cautela ao importar diretamente uma regulação ainda não testada, dado que o país possui uma situação factual própria e única. Em vez de replicar impulsivamente tendências regulatórias da UE, o Brasil deveria adotar uma abordagem mais metódica e baseada em evidências. Um regime regulatório sólido exige que novas regras sejam fundamentadas em uma visão clara das falhas de mercado específicas que pretende abordar, bem como uma compreensão de seus custos e potenciais consequências acidentais. Infelizmente, o Projeto de Lei 2768 não atende a esses requisitos. Como demonstramos em nossa resposta à Consulta, não está claro que a legislação de defesa da concorrência brasileira tenha deixado de abordar problemas concorrenciais em mercados digitais a ponto de tornar necessária uma regulação digital sui generis. Em realidade, é pouco provável que existam “instalações essenciais” efetivas nos mercados digitais brasileiros a ponto de tornar necessária uma regulação que crie obrigações de acesso; é também pouco provável que “dados” representem uma barreira intransponível à entrada. Outros aspectos do Projeto de Lei –  como a designação da Anatel como autoridade responsável; os patamares extremamente baixos de faturamento fixados para identificação de um “controlador de acesso essencial”; e a ausência de qualquer consideração ao bem-estar do consumidor como um parâmetro relevante para a determinação de existência de danos ou para a identificação de exceções – também estão equivocados. Portanto, da forma como atualmente proposta, o Projeto de Lei 2768 levanta riscos de não apenas aumentar a pressão sobre os esparsos recursos públicos do país, como de reduzir a inovação, aumentar preços aos consumidores, e prejudicar o próspero ecossistema de startups do país.

Pergunta 1

Identificação de “facilidades essenciais” no universo dos mercados digitais. Dê exemplos de ativos de plataformas no mercado digital atuando no Brasil em que ao mesmo tempo: a) não haja plataformas digitais com ativos substitutos próximos a estes ativos b) estes ativos sejam difíceis de duplicação com eficiência ao menos próxima da empresa proprietária c) sem o acesso a este ativo, não seria possível atuar em um ou mais mercados, pois ele constitui um insumo fundamental.

Pelas razões que discutimos abaixo, é improvável que existam exemplos de verdadeiras “instalações essenciais” nos mercados digitais no Brasil.

É importante definir o significado de “instalação essencial” com precisão. O conceito de instalação essencial é um termo de última geração usado no direito da concorrência, que foi definido de forma diferente em todas as jurisdições. Ainda assim, a ideia geral das doutrinas de instalações essenciais é que há casos em que a negação de acesso a uma instalação por um operador existente pode distorcer a concorrência. No entanto, para separar os casos em que a negação de acesso constitui uma expressão legítima da concorrência no mérito das situações em que ela indica uma conduta anticompetitiva, os tribunais e as autoridades de defesa da concorrência elaboraram uma série de testes.

Assim, na UE, o caso de referência Bronner estabeleceu que a doutrina das instalações essenciais se aplica nos casos do art. 102 do TFUE quando:

  1. A recusa for suscetível de eliminar toda a concorrência no mercado por parte da pessoa que solicitar o serviço;
  2. A recusa não puder ser objetivamente justificada; e
  3. O serviço em si for indispensável para a condução dos negócios dessa pessoa, ou seja, não há substituto efetivo ou potencial para o insumo solicitado.[3]

Além disso, a instalação deve ser genuinamente “essencial” para competir, e não apenas conveniente.

Da mesma forma, o CADE incorporou a doutrina de instalações essenciais à política de concorrência brasileira, impondo o dever de lidar com os concorrentes.[4]

A definição de “instalações essenciais” e, consequentemente, a extensão e os limites da doutrina de instalações essenciais, nos termos do Projeto de Lei 2768/2022 (“Projeto de Lei 2768”), devem refletir princípios experimentados e testados do direito da concorrência. Não há razão para que as instalações essenciais sejam tratadas de forma diferente nos mercados “digitais”, ou seja, mercados que envolvem plataformas digitais, do que em outros mercados. Neste sentido, estamos preocupados que o enquadramento da Pergunta 1 revele uma inconsistência que deve ser abordada antes de seguir em frente; ou seja, quando os ativos de uma empresa são “difíceis” de replicar de forma eficiente, justifica-se forçar um concorrente a conceder acesso a esses ativos. A ideia é equivocada e pode até produzir o oposto do que o Projeto de Lei 2768 supostamente visa obter.

Como indicado acima, o conceito fundamental que sustenta a doutrina das instalações essenciais é que ela se aplica a um produto ou serviço que é pouco lucrativo ou impossível de duplicar. Normalmente, isso se aplica à infraestrutura, como telecomunicações ou ferrovias. Por exemplo, esperar que os concorrentes dupliquem rotas de transporte, como ferrovias, seria irreal — e economicamente um desperdício. Em vez disso, os governos frequentemente escolheram regular esses setores como serviços públicos de monopólio natural. Predominantemente, a prática inclui obrigatoriedade de acesso a todos os participantes de tais instalações essenciais mediante preços regulados e condições não discriminatórias que tornam a atividade de outras empresas viável e competitiva – facilitando assim a concorrência em um mercado secundário em situações em que a concorrência poderia ser impossível.

No entanto, o governo deve se perguntar em que medida essa lógica se aplica às chamadas plataformas digitais.

Os mecanismos de busca on-line, por exemplo, não são impossíveis ou excessivamente difíceis de replicar — nem o acesso a qualquer um deles é indispensável. Hoje, muitos mecanismos de busca estão disponíveis no mercado: Bing, Yandex, Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, Google, Baidu, Ask.com e Swisscows — entre outros.

Mais precisamente, o mero acesso aos mecanismos de pesquisa não é realmente um problema. Em vez disso, na maioria dos casos, aqueles que reclamam da atividade de um mecanismo de busca geralmente desejam acesso aos primeiros resultados ou que o mecanismo de busca priorize seus próprios serviços de mercado secundário em detrimento do concorrente. Mas este espaço é irrisoriamente escasso; não há como ele ser alocado a todos os participantes. Ele também não pode ser alocado em termos imparciais; por definição, um mecanismo de busca deve priorizar os resultados.

Tratar um mecanismo de busca como uma instalação essencial geraria resultados problemáticos. Por exemplo, exigir acesso não discriminatório aos principais resultados de um mecanismo de busca seria como exigir que uma ferrovia oferecesse serviço a todos os transportadores a qualquer momento que o transportador quisesse, independentemente do congestionamento da ferrovia, dos horários de outros transportadores e da otimização pela ferrovia de seus horários. Não só seria impossível, mas nem sequer é exigido das instalações essenciais tradicionais.

Notadamente, embora as primeiras classificações na página de resultados de um mecanismo de busca seja, sem dúvida, um benefício para os negócios, existem outras maneiras de alcançar os clientes. De fato, como o CADE decidiu em um caso relativo ao Google Shopping, mesmo que a primeira página do resultado do Google seja relevante e importante para sites classificados, ela não é insubstituível, na medida em que existem outras maneiras de os consumidores encontrarem sites on-line. O Google não é um intermediário obrigatório para acesso ao site.[5] Além disso, como observado, as páginas de resultados de busca devem, por definição, discriminar para funcionar corretamente. Considerá-las instalações essenciais implicaria disputas intermináveis (e determinações tecnicamente complicadas) para decidir se as decisões de priorização do mecanismo de busca eram “adequadas” ou não.

Da mesma forma, plataformas de varejo on-line, como Amazon e Mercado Livre, são muito bem-sucedidas e convenientes, mas os vendedores podem usar outros métodos para alcançar os clientes. Por exemplo, eles podem vender em lojas físicas ou configurar facilmente seus próprios sites de varejo usando uma infinidade de provedores de software como serviço (“SaaS”) para facilitar o processamento e o atendimento de pedidos. Além disso, a presença e o sucesso simultâneos de Mercado Livre, B2W (Submarino.com, Americanas.com, Shoptime, Soubarato), Cnova (Extra.com.br, Casasbahia.com.br, Pontofrio.com), Magazine Luiza e Amazon no mercado brasileiro desqualifica a alegação de que qualquer uma dessas plataformas é indispensável ou irreplicável.[6]

Argumentos semelhantes podem ser feitos sobre as demais plataformas digitais abrangidas pelo art. 6, inciso II, do PL 2768. Por exemplo, o WhatsApp pode ser de longe o serviço de comunicação interpessoal mais popular do país. Ainda assim, há muitas alternativas de alcance fácil (e principalmente gratuito) para os consumidores brasileiros, como Messenger (62 milhões de usuários), Telegram (30 milhões), Instagram (64 milhões), Viber (3 milhões), Hangouts (2 milhões), WeChat (1 milhão), Kik (500.000 usuários) e Line (1 milhão de usuários). O grande número de usuários de cada aplicativo sugere que o multi-homing (multifornecimento) é generalizado.

Em suma, embora o acesso a uma determinada plataforma digital possa ser conveniente, especialmente se ela for atualmente a mais popular entre os usuários, é altamente questionável se esse acesso é essencial. E, como o Advogado Geral Jacobs observou em seu parecer em Bronner, a mera conveniência não cria um direito de acesso segundo a doutrina das instalações essenciais.[7]

Recomendação: O Projeto de Lei 2768 deve deixar claro que os princípios e requisitos de “instalações essenciais”, dentro do significado do direito da concorrência, se aplicam integralmente aos deveres e às obrigações contemplados no art. 10 — e que a definição de uma “instalação essencial” é um pré-requisito para a imposição desses deveres ou obrigações.

Pergunta 2

É necessária uma regulação que garanta o acesso ao(s) ativo(s) do(s) exemplo(s) da questão 1? O que tal regulação deveria garantir para que o acesso ao ativo viabilize a entrada de terceiros naqueles mercados digitais?

Antes de considerar se a regulamentação é necessária para garantir o acesso a ativos de determinadas empresas, o governo deve primeiramente considerar se garantir esse acesso é necessário e legítimo. Em nossa resposta à Pergunta 1, argumentamos que é improvável que seja. Se o governo, no entanto, decidir o contrário, a próxima pergunta lógica deve ser se o direito da concorrência, incluindo a própria doutrina das instalações essenciais, é suficiente para abordar quaisquer problemas alegados identificados na Pergunta 2.

Indiscutivelmente, a melhor maneira de responder a essa pergunta seria por meio do experimento natural de permitir que o CADE apresente processos contra plataformas digitais — supondo que possa construir um caso prima facie em cada instância — e verificar se ferramentas tradicionais do direito da concorrência fornecem ou não uma solução viável e, se não, se essas ferramentas podem ser aprimoradas pela reforma da lei de concorrência do Brasil, ou se é necessária uma nova regulamentação prévia abrangente.

Em comparação, a UE experimentou a lei de concorrência da UE antes de aprovar o Projeto de Lei dos Mercados Digitais (“DMA”). De fato, a maioria, se não todas, as proibições e obrigações da DMA decorrem de processos do direito da concorrência.[8] A UE acabou decidindo que preferia aprovar regras prévias gerais contra determinadas práticas, em vez de ter de litigar com base no direito da concorrência. Se essa foi ou não a decisão correta está em debate, mas uma coisa é certa: A UE testou seu kit de ferramentas de concorrência extensivamente contra plataformas digitais, antes de aprender com os resultados e decidir que precisava ser complementado com um novo conjunto de regras mais amplas, fáceis de aplicar e claras.

Em contraste, o Brasil instaurou apenas alguns processos de defesa da concorrência contra plataformas digitais. De acordo com números publicados pelo CADE, o[9] CADE analisou 233 processos de fusão relacionados a mercados de plataformas digitais entre 1995 e 2023 e, com relação a condutas unilaterais (casos de monopolização) — aquelas mais relevantes para a discussão do PL 2768 — abriu 23 processos de conduta. Com relação a esses 23 processos, 9 ainda estão sendo investigados, 11 foram julgados improcedentes e apenas 3 foram encerrados pela assinatura de um Termo de Compromisso de Cessação (TCC). Neste sentido, apenas 3 processos (TCCs) de 23 poderiam ter sido, em certa medida, “condenados”. É questionável se esses processos fornecem o tipo de evidência da existência de problemas intrínsecos de concorrência nos oito mercados de serviços identificados no art. 6, parágrafo II, do Projeto de Lei 2768 que justificariam novas regras de acesso “específicas do setor”.[10]

De fato, a recente entrada de empresas em muitos desses mercados sugere que o oposto está mais próximo da verdade. Existem inúmeros exemplos de entrada em uma variedade de serviços digitais, incluindo TikTok, Shein, Shopee e Daki, para citar apenas alguns.

Sérios problemas podem surgir quando produtos que não são instalações essenciais são tratados como tal, dos quais citamos dois.

Em primeiro lugar, estender demais a doutrina das instalações essenciais pode incentivar o oportunismo.[11] Não é para esse objetivo nem a intenção para a qual a doutrina das instalações essenciais, devidamente compreendida, deve ser usada:

Consequentemente, o [Tribunal de Justiça Europeu] implica que a [doutrina das instalações essenciais] não é concebida para a conveniência das empresas explorarem livremente as empresas dominantes, mas apenas para a necessidade de sobrevivência no mercado secundário em situações em que não existem substitutos efetivos.[12]

Por que desenvolver uma plataforma de varejo on-line concorrente, quando o acesso ao Mercado Livre ou à Amazon é garantido por lei? O oportunismo pode desencorajar investimentos de empresas terceiras e “guardiões” direcionados — especialmente no desenvolvimento e na melhoria de plataformas de negócios concorrentes (ou modelos de negócios alternativos que não são réplicas exatas das plataformas existentes). Ao contrário dos objetivos declarados do Projeto de Lei 2768, isso poderia entrincheirar ainda mais os operadores existentes, pois a capacidade de se aproveitar dos investimentos de terceiros incentiva as empresas a se afastarem dos principais mercados dos operadores existentes para atuar como complementadores nesses mercados.

De fato, uma preocupação séria — e subestimada — é o custo de assumir riscos excessivos por empresas que podem contar com proteções regulatórias para garantir a viabilidade contínua, mesmo quando ela não é garantida.

As empresas devem desenvolver seus modelos de negócios e operá-los em reconhecimento ao risco envolvido. Um complementador que se torna dependente de uma plataforma para distribuição de seu conteúdo assume um risco. Embora possa se beneficiar de um maior acesso aos usuários, ele se coloca à mercê do outro — ou pelo menos enfrenta grande dificuldade (e um custo significativo) para se adaptar a mudanças imprevistas na plataforma sobre as quais não tem controle. Essa é uma espécie de problema de “especificidade de ativo” que anima grande parte da literatura de Economia de Custos de Transação.[13]

Mas o risco pode ser calculado. As empresas ocupam posições especializadas em cadeias de suprimentos em toda a economia e fazem investimentos arriscados e específicos de ativos o tempo todo. Na maioria das circunstâncias, as empresas usam contratos para alocar risco e responsabilidade de forma a viabilizar o relacionamento. Quando é muito difícil gerenciar o risco por contrato, as empresas podem se integrar verticalmente (alinhando assim seus incentivos) ou simplesmente seguir caminhos separados.

O fato de uma plataforma criar uma oportunidade como apoio para os complementadores não significa que a decisão de uma empresa de fazê-lo — e fazê-lo sem um plano de contingência viável — faça sentido para os negócios. No caso dos sites de comparação de compras em questão, na decisão do Google Shopping da UE,[14] por exemplo, era totalmente previsível que o algoritmo do Google evoluiria. Também era totalmente previsível que ele evoluiria de maneiras que poderiam diminuir ou até mesmo evitar seu tráfego. Como disse um especialista em marketing digital, “contar com o tráfego dos mecanismos de busca como sua principal fonte de tráfego é um pouco insensato, para dizer o mínimo”.[15]

Fornecer garantias (que é o que uma regra de acesso “guardião” realiza) nessa situação cria um problema significativo: Proteger os complementadores do risco inerente a um modelo de negócios, no qual eles são totalmente dependentes de outra empresa com a qual não têm relação contratual, representa, no mínimo, tão provável como incentivar a tomada de riscos excessivos e o excesso de investimento ineficiente quanto garantir que o investimento e a inovação não sejam muito baixos.[16]

Em segundo lugar, conceder a empresas e concorrentes acesso a bens ou serviços, exceto nos poucos e restritos casos[17] em que o acesso a esses bens e serviços é verdadeiramente essencial para sustentar a concorrência no mercado, envia às plataformas a mensagem errada. A mensagem é que, depois de serem incentivadas a competir, as empresas de sucesso serão punidas por prosperarem. Isso contraria o espírito do direito concorrencial e o princípio da livre concorrência, que o PL 2768 deve ter o cuidado de não eliminar. Como o grande jurista norte-americano Learned Hand observou no processo U.S. v. Aluminum Co. of America: “O concorrente de sucesso, tendo sido instado a competir, não deve ser atacado quando vencer.”[18]

Além disso, forçar as empresas a fazer negócios com terceiros está em desacordo com o princípio de que, a menos que uma violação da lei de defesa da concorrência possa ser verificada, as empresas devem ser livres para fazer negócios com quem quiserem.[19] De fato, é uma pedra angular da economia de livre mercado que “as leis de defesa da concorrência [não] imponham um dever às [empresas]. . . para auxiliar [concorrentes]. . . ‘sobreviver ou expandir.’”[20]

Pergunta 3

Descreva casos nos mercados digitais em que há pelo menos uma outra empresa com ativos substitutos próximos a estes ativos da empresa principal, mas que ainda assim nenhuma das plataformas digitais que detêm o ativo provém acesso a ele. Ou seja, mesmo havendo mais de um ativo no mercado, continua havendo problema de acesso ao ativo. Como o PL 2768/2022, especialmente seu art. 10, poderia ser melhorado para aprimorar o acesso ao insumo essencial?

Não temos conhecimento desses processos.

Pergunta 4

Descreva casos em que a propriedade de dados em mercados digitais cria uma barreira à entrada que torna muito difícil ou mesmo impossível a entrada no mercado das plataformas digitais incumbentes. Como o PL 2768/2022 poderia mitigar este problema, reduzindo a barreira à entrada representada por acesso a dados?

A medida em que os dados representam uma barreira à entrada é, em nossa opinião, muito exagerada. O PL 2768 não deve supor que os dados são uma barreira à entrada e deve avaliar criticamente as alegações em contrário — especialmente se pretende construir um novo regime regulatório abrangente com base nessa suposição.[21]

Em poucas palavras, as teorias de “dados como barreira à entrada” afirmam que os dados on-line podem constituir uma barreira à entrada, isolando os serviços estabelecidos da concorrência e garantindo que apenas os maiores provedores prosperem. Essa barreira de dados à entrada, alega-se, pode permitir que empresas com poder de monopólio prejudiquem os consumidores, seja diretamente por meio de “atos negligentes”, como discriminação de preços, ou indiretamente, aumentando os custos de publicidade, que são repassados aos consumidores.[22]

No entanto, a noção de dados como uma barreira à entrada relevante de defesa da concorrência é mais uma suposição do que a realidade.

Primeiro, apesar da pressa em abraçar o “excepcionalismo da plataforma digital”, os dados são úteis para todos os setores. “Dados” não é um fenômeno novo específico para empresas on-line. Vale a pena repetir que os varejistas off-line também recebem vantagens substanciais e beneficiam muito os consumidores, ao saber mais sobre o que os consumidores querem e quando querem. Por meio de dispositivos como cupons, descontos de associação e cartões de fidelidade (para não mencionar listas de discussão direcionadas e a antiga prática de mineração de dados de comprovantes de check-out), os varejistas físicos podem rastrear dados de compra e atender melhor os consumidores. Não só os consumidores recebem melhores ofertas por usá-los, mas também os varejistas sabem quais produtos estocar e anunciar, e quando e com quais produtos realizar vendas.[23]

Obviamente, também há uma série de outros usos dos dados, incluindo segurança, prevenção de fraudes, otimização de produtos, redução de riscos para o segurado, saber qual conteúdo é mais interessante para os leitores etc. A importância dos dados vai muito além do mundo on-line e muito além do mero uso no varejo em geral. Descrever qualquer empresa como detentora de monopólio dos dados é, portanto, um erro.

Em segundo lugar, não é o volume de dados que leva ao sucesso, mas como esses dados são usados para criar produtos ou serviços atrativos para os usuários. Em outras palavras: a informação é importante para as empresas devido ao valor que dela pode ser extraído, e não pelo valor inerente dos dados em si. Assim, muitas empresas que acumularam grandes volumes de dados foram posteriormente incapazes de transformar esses dados em uma vantagem competitiva para ter sucesso no mercado. Por exemplo, Orkut, AOL, Friendster, Myspace, Yahoo! e Flicker — para citar alguns — todos ganharam imensa popularidade e acesso a volumes significativas de dados, mas não conseguiram reter seus usuários porque seus produtos não eram, em última análise, inexpressivos.

Não só os dados são menos importantes do que o que deles pode ser extraído, mas também são menos importantes do que o produto subjacente que eles informam. Por exemplo, o Snapchat criou um concorrente para o Facebook com tanto sucesso (e em tão pouco tempo) que o Facebook tentou comprá-lo por $3 bilhões (o Google ofereceu $4 bilhões). Mas o interesse do Facebook no Snapchat não era sobre seus dados. Em vez disso, o Snapchat era valioso — e um desafio competitivo para o Facebook — porque incorporou inteligentemente a percepção (aparentemente nova) de que muitas pessoas queriam compartilhar informações de uma maneira mais privada.

Da mesma forma, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, TikTok (e o próprio Facebook) começaram com poucos (ou nenhum) dados, mas, no entanto, obtiveram sucesso. Enquanto isso, apesar de suas supostas vantagens de dados, a tentativa do Google em redes sociais, o Google+, jamais alcançou o Facebook em termos de popularidade entre os usuários (e, portanto, também não entre os anunciantes) e foi desativado em 2019.

Ao mesmo tempo, não é o caso em que os supostos gigantes de dados — aqueles que supostamente se isolam por trás das barreiras à entrada de dados — realmente tenham, de qualquer maneira, o tipo de dados mais relevante para as startups. Como argumentou Andres Lerner, se você quisesse iniciar um negócio de viagens, os dados do Kayak ou Priceline (ou Decolar.com local) seriam muito mais relevantes.[24] Ou se você quisesse iniciar um negócio de compartilhamento de veículos, os dados das empresas de táxi seriam mais úteis do que os perfis amplos e transversais de mercado que o Google e o Facebook têm. Considere empresas como a Uber e a 99 que não tinham dados de clientes quando começaram a desafiar as empresas de táxi estabelecidas que detinham desses dados. Se os dados fossem realmente tão significativos, elas jamais poderiam ter competido com sucesso. Mas a Uber e a 99 conseguiram competir efetivamente porque construíram produtos que os usuários queriam usar — elas tiveram uma ideia para uma armadilha melhor. Os dados que elas acumularam foram obtidos depois que elas inovaram, entraram no mercado e superaram seus desafios com sucesso — não antes.

Portanto, reclamações sobre dados que facilitam vantagens competitivas incontestáveis têm demonstrado exatamente o contrário. As empresas precisam inovar para atrair dados do consumidor; caso contrário, os consumidores migrarão para os concorrentes (incluindo novos entrantes e operadores estabelecidos). Como resultado, o desejo de fazer uso de mais e melhores dados impulsiona a inovação competitiva, com resultados claramente impressionantes: A explosão contínua de novos produtos, serviços e de outros aplicativos é uma evidência de que os dados não são um gargalo para a concorrência, mas um estímulo para impulsioná-la.

Em terceiro lugar, a concorrência on-line está (metaforicamente – mas não muito) a um clique ou deslize do polegar. Ou seja, as barreiras à entrada e os custos de migração são baixos. De fato, apesar da suposta prevalência de barreiras de dados à entrada, a concorrência on-line continua a aumentar, com os recém-chegados constantemente emergindo e triunfando. A entrada de varejistas on-line e de outras plataformas digitais no Brasil é um caso em questão (Vide Perguntas 1 e 2). Isso sugere que as barreiras à entrada não são tão altas a ponto de impedir uma concorrência robusta.

Novamente, apesar dos supostos monopólios baseados em dados do Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple e outros, existem concorrentes poderosos nos mercados em que competem:

  • Se os consumidores quiserem fazer uma compra, é mais provável que façam suas buscas no Mercado Livre ou na Amazon do que no Google ou no Facebook, mesmo com o lançamento do Facebook Marketplace.
  • O mecanismo de busca Google Flights não conseguiu ameaçar seriamente — muito menos deslocar — seus concorrentes, como os críticos temiam. Decolar.com, Kayak, Expedia e similares continuam sendo os sites de busca de viagens mais proeminentes — apesar de o Google ter literalmente comprado o acervo de dados de voo e a inteligência de processamento de dados da ITA.
  • O ChatGPT, uma das startups mais valorizadas atualmente, se tornou um sério adversário aos mecanismos de busca tradicionais.
  • O TikTok cresceu rapidamente para desafiar aplicativos populares de mídia social, como Instagram e Facebook.

Mesmo supondo, a título de argumento, que os dados criam uma barreira à entrada, há poucas evidências de que os consumidores não possam migrar facilmente para um concorrente. Embora, em alguns casos, haja efeitos na rede on-line, como nas redes sociais, a história ainda mostra que as pessoas migrarão. O Myspace era considerado uma rede dominante, até que tomou uma série de decisões de negócios ruins, e os usuários acabaram no Facebook; O Orkut teve um destino semelhante. Da mesma forma, os usuários da Internet podem e usam o Bing, o DuckDuckGo, o Yahoo! e uma infinidade de mecanismos de busca mais especializados, além e no lugar do Google, e cada vez mais também recorrem a outras maneiras de encontrar informações on-line (como pesquisar uma marca ou um restaurante diretamente no Instagram ou no TikTok, ou fazer uma pergunta ao ChatGPT). De fato, o próprio Google já foi um entrante iniciante, que substituiu nomes antes familiares como Yahoo! e AltaVista.

Em quarto lugar, o acesso a dados não é exclusivo. Os dados não são como o petróleo. Se, por exemplo, a Petrobras perfurar e extrair petróleo do solo, esse petróleo não mais estará disponível para outras empresas. Os dados não são igualmente finitos. O Google saber o aniversário de alguém também não limita a capacidade do Facebook de saber o aniversário da mesma pessoa. Embora os bancos de dados possam ser proprietários, os dados subjacentes não o são. E o que importa mais do que os dados em si é o nível de qualidade com que eles são analisados (veja o primeiro ponto). Como os dados não são exclusivos como o petróleo, qualquer tentativa de forçar o compartilhamento de dados e ajudar os concorrentes cria um problema de oportunismo. Por que passar pelo esforço de coletar dados valiosos sobre os clientes para saber o que eles querem e ser capaz de melhor atendê-los, quando a regulamentação exige que a Apple efetivamente forneça os dados?

Em conclusão, o problema de conceder aos concorrentes acesso aos dados é que os dados são uma consequência da concorrência, não um pré-requisito para ela. Assim, em vez de aumentar sua capacidade de competir, “presentear” os concorrentes com os frutos de tentativas bem-sucedidas de concorrência de outros corre o risco de destruir os incentivos de ambos os grupos para projetar produtos atrativos e acumular esses dados em primeiro lugar. Ao reverter a causalidade entre dados e concorrência, o Projeto de Lei 2768 corre o risco de sufocar inadvertidamente a mesma concorrência que supostamente busca reforçar.

Pergunta 5

Cite casos em que uma empresa no mercado digital no Brasil usou dados de terceiros em função de sua característica de provedor de insumo essencial, prejudicando o terceiro competitivamente?

Não temos conhecimento desses processos.

No entanto, o enquadramento desta pergunta deve ser claro sobre o que se entende por “prejudicar um terceiro competitivamente”. O uso de dados de terceiros é um dos principais impulsionadores da concorrência. Mesmo que os concorrentes sejam “prejudicados” como resultado, eles são prejudicados apenas na medida em que não se equiparem ao preço ou à qualidade oferecidos pela plataforma.

A concorrência é, em grande parte, impulsionada pelo uso do conhecimento dos produtos dos rivais — incluindo seu preço, qualidade, quantidade e como eles são vendidos e apresentados aos consumidores. De fato, o modelo de concorrência perfeita pressupõe, em grande medida, que todos os produtos no mercado são homogêneos (mesmo que isso raramente seja confirmado na prática). O uso de dados de terceiros para igualar e superar as ofertas dos concorrentes pode ser visto como uma expressão moderna dessa dinâmica. De fato, como já escrevemos antes:

Não podemos presumir que algo é ruim para a concorrência apenas porque é ruim para determinados concorrentes. Muitos comportamentos inequivocamente pró-concorrência, como o corte de preços, também tendem a dificultar a vida dos concorrentes. O mesmo acontece quando uma plataforma digital fornece um serviço melhor do que as alternativas fornecidas por terceiros vendedores no site. […].

Não há dúvida de que isso é desagradável para os comerciantes que precisam competir com essas ofertas. Mas também não é diferente de ter de competir com rivais mais eficientes, com custos mais baixos ou melhor percepção de demanda do consumidor. Copiar produtos e buscar maneiras de oferecê-los com melhores recursos ou a um preço mais baixo, que os críticos da autopreferência destacam como uma preocupação particular, sempre foi uma parte fundamental da concorrência no mercado – de fato, é a principal maneira pela qual a concorrência ocorre na maioria dos mercados.[25]

Qualquer proibição per se do uso de dados de terceiros impediria as plataformas digitais de usar dados para melhorar sua oferta de produtos de maneiras que poderiam beneficiar os consumidores.

Recomendação: Supondo que a lei de concorrência e a lei de PI (Propriedade Intelectual) não estejam à altura da tarefa de coibir abusos de dados de terceiros, o Projeto de Lei 2768 deve garantir que essas proibições sejam feitas sob medida para cobrir condutas que não tenham outra explicação racional além de procurar excluir um concorrente. Ele não deve capturar usos de dados de terceiros que impulsionem a concorrência e beneficiem os consumidores, mesmo que isso resulte na saída de um concorrente do mercado.

Pergunta 6

Descreva casos em que uma dificuldade de interoperabilidade com os sistemas de uma empresa torna muito difícil ou impossível a entrada em um ou mais mercados digitais. Como o PL 2768/2022 poderia mitigar este problema, reduzindo a barreira à entrada representada por falta de interoperabilidade?

Não temos conhecimento desses processos.

No entanto, ao considerar potenciais mandatos de interoperabilidade, o governo deve estar ciente dos riscos e compensações que acompanham essas medidas, especialmente em termos de segurança, proteção e privacidade (vide Pergunta 8 para obter uma discussão mais detalhada).

Pergunta 7

O Digital Market Act (DMA) Europeu optou por realizar proibições absolutas (per se) de algumas condutas nos mercados digitais como o self-preferencing, dentre outras. Já o PL 2768/2022 optou por não fazer qualquer conduta proibida ex-ante. Caberia haver uma ou mais condutas com proibições absolutas (per se) no PL 2768/2022? Por que? Por favor, propor redação, explicitando em que parte do PL se localizaria?

Não. Não deve haver proibições absolutas sobre esses tipos de conduta, especialmente sem experiência substantiva que sugira que essa conduta é sempre ou quase sempre prejudicial e em grande parte irremediável (neste item, respondemos à pergunta em termos gerais; consulte a Pergunta 8 para obter uma discussão sobre por que determinada conduta (por exemplo, autopreferência) não deve ser proibida).

Independentemente do dano aos negócios das empresas-alvo, proibições (ou mandatos) excessivamente amplas podem prejudicar os consumidores, arrefecendo a conduta pró-concorrência e desestimulando a inovação e o investimento, especialmente quando não for necessária uma demonstração de dano e a lei não for passível de argumentos de eficiência (como no caso do DMA). O fato de que essas proibições se aplicam a mercados muito diferentes (por exemplo, serviços em nuvem têm pouca relação com mecanismos de busca), independentemente do contexto, também é um sinal claro de que elas são excessivamente amplas e mal definidas.

De fato, há indícios de que, onde o DMA foi introduzido, ele atrasou o avanço da tecnologia. Por exemplo, a “Bard AI” do Google foi lançada mais tarde na Europa devido aos regulamentos incertos e rígidos de IA e privacidade da UE.[26] Da mesma forma, o “Threads” da Meta não está disponível na UE precisamente devido às restrições impostas pelo DMA e pelo regulamento de privacidade de dados da UE (GDPR).[27] Elon Musk, CEO da X (anteriormente Twitter), indicou que o custo de cumprir os regulamentos digitais da UE, como o DSA, poderia levar a empresa a sair do mercado europeu.[28] Recentemente, a Microsoft atrasou o lançamento na Europa de sua nova IA, “Copilot”, por causa do DMA.[29]

Além de capturar a conduta pró-concorrência que beneficia os consumidores e congelar a tecnologia no tempo (o que acabaria por exacerbar o abismo tecnológico entre países mais e menos avançados), as regras rígidas per se também poderiam capturar muitas empresas emergentes que não podem ser consideradas “guardiãs” por qualquer nível de imaginação. Esse risco é especialmente real no caso do Brasil, dado o limite extremamente baixo para o que constitui um “guardião”, consagrado no Artigo 9 (R$70 milhões, ou aproximadamente US$14 milhões). Assim, muitos unicórnios brasileiros poderiam, imediatamente ou em um futuro próximo, ser capturados pelas novas regras restritivas, o que poderia prejudicar seu crescimento e arrefecer produtos inovadores. Em última análise, isso poderia colocar em risco o status atual do Brasil como “o centro de startups mais bem estabelecido [da América Latina”] e lançar uma sombra sobre o que a The Economist se referiu como o futuro brilhante das startups latino-americanas.[30]

A lista de empresas prejudicadas pode incluir alguns dos unicórnios mais promissores do Brasil, como:

  • 99 (aplicativo de transporte)
  • Neon Bank (banco digital)
  • C6 Bank (banco digital)
  • CloudWalk (meio de pagamento)
  • Creditas (plataforma de empréstimos)
  • Ebanx (soluções de pagamento)
  • Facily (comércio social)
  • com (frete rodoviário)
  • Gympass (agregador de academia e benefícios corporativos)
  • Hotmart (plataforma de venda de produtos digitais)
  • iFood (serviço de entrega)
  • Loft (plataforma imobiliária)
  • Loggi (logística)
  • Mercado Bitcoin (corretora de criptomoedas)
  • Merama (e-commerce)
  • Madeira Madeira (loja de produtos para casa e decoração)
  • Nubank (banco)
  • Olist (e-commerce)
  • Wildlife Studios (desenvolvedora de jogos)
  • Quinto Andar (plataforma de locação de imóveis)
  • Vtex (tecnologia e comércio digital)
  • Unico (biometria)
  • Dock (infraestrutura)
  • Pismo (tecnologia para pagamentos e serviços bancários)[31]

Pergunta 8

Haveria condutas nos mercados digitais que teriam uma alta potencialidade de implicar problemas competitivos, mas que podem ser justificadas como gerar maior eficiência às empresas, às transações e aos mercados? Dê exemplos destas condutas? Como estas condutas deveriam ser tratadas no PL 2768/2022? Em particular, seria cabível uma “inversão de ônus da prova” em que tais condutas seriam presumivelmente anticompetitivas, mas que seria cabível autorizar uma defesa das plataformas digitais baseadas nessas eficiências? Caberia contemplar estas condutas não como proibidas per se, mas com “inversão de ônus da prova” no PL 2768/2022?

Existem certos tipos de comportamento nos mercados digitais que foram alvo de regulamentações prévias, mas que são, no entanto, capazes ou mesmo fundamentais para oferecer benefícios pró-concorrência significativos. Seria injustificado e prejudicial sujeitar essa conduta a proibições per se ou inverter o ônus da prova. Em vez disso, esse tipo de conduta deve ser abordado de forma imparcial e examinado caso a caso.[32]

A.      Autopreferência

A autopreferência ocorre quando uma empresa oferece tratamento preferencial a um de seus próprios produtos (presumidamente, esse tipo de comportamento poderia ser coberto pelo art. 10, inciso II, do PL 2768). Um exemplo seria o Google exibir seu serviço de compras no topo dos resultados de busca antes dos serviços de compras alternativos. Os críticos dessa prática argumentam que ela coloca as empresas dominantes em concorrência com outras empresas que dependem de seus serviços, e isso permite que as empresas alavanquem seu poder em um mercado para ganhar posição em um mercado adjacente, expandindo e consolidando seu domínio. No entanto, esse comportamento também pode ser pró-concorrência e benéfico para os usuários.

Nos últimos anos, um número crescente de críticos tem argumentado que as grandes plataformas de tecnologia prejudicam a concorrência ao favorecer seu próprio conteúdo em detrimento de seus complementadores. Ao longo do tempo, esse argumento contra a autopreferência tornou-se um dos mais proeminentes entre aqueles que buscam impor novas restrições regulatórias a essas plataformas.

De acordo com essa linha de argumentação, os complementadores estariam “à mercê” das plataformas tecnológicas. Ao discriminar em favor de seu próprio conteúdo e contra “provedores de ponta” independentes, as plataformas de tecnologia fazem com que “as recompensas pela inovação de ponta [sejam] atenuadas pela apropriação descontrolada”, levando a perspectivas “sombrias” para os atores independentes na economia da internet – e a inovação de ponta em geral. “[33]

O problema, no entanto, é que as alegações de dano presuntivo da autopreferência (também conhecida como “discriminação vertical”) não se baseiam em dados econômicos sólidos nem em evidências.

A noção de que a entrada da plataformas em concorrência com provedores de ponta é prejudicial à inovação é inteiramente especulativa. Além disso, é totalmente contrário a uma série de estudos que mostram que o oposto provavelmente é verdadeiro. Na realidade, a competição de plataformas é mais complicada do que as simples teorias de discriminação vertical,[34] e a literatura estabelece que certamente não há base para presunção de dano.[35]

A noção de que as plataformas devem ser forçadas a permitir que os complementadores concorram em seus próprios termos, livres de restrições ou concorrência de plataformas, é uma espécie de ideia de que as plataformas são mais socialmente valiosas quando são mais “abertas”. Mas a obrigatoriedade da abertura não é isenta de custos, o mais importante em termos do funcionamento eficaz da plataforma e de seus próprios incentivos à inovação.

Plataformas “abertas” e “fechadas” são formas diferentes de fornecer serviços semelhantes, e há espaço para concorrência entre essas abordagens alternativas. Ao proibir a autopreferência, um órgão regulador pode, portanto, encerrar a concorrência em detrimento dos consumidores. Como observamos em outra parte:

Para a Apple (e seus usuários), a pedra de toque de uma boa plataforma não é “abertura”, mas seleção e segurança cuidadosamente escolhidas, entendidas amplamente como abrangendo a remoção de conteúdo censurável, proteção da privacidade e proteção contra “engenharia social” e similares. Por outro lado, a aposta do Android é no modelo de plataforma aberta, que sacrifica algum grau de segurança pela maior variedade e personalização associadas a uma distribuição mais aberta. Essas são diferenças legítimas no design do produto e na filosofia de negócios.[36]

Além disso, é importante notar que a apropriação da inovação de ponta e sua incorporação à plataforma (uma forma comumente criticada de autopreferência da plataforma) aumenta muito o valor da inovação, compartilhando-a de forma mais ampla, garantindo sua coerência com a plataforma, incentivando o marketing e a promoção ideais e afins. Os smartphones hoje são uma coleção de muitos recursos que costumavam ser oferecidos separadamente, como telefones, calculadoras, câmeras e consoles de jogos, e fica claro que a incorporação desses recursos em um único dispositivo trouxe imensos benefícios aos consumidores e à sociedade como um todo. Em outras palavras, mesmo que haja um custo em termos de redução de inovação de ponta, os ganhos imediatos de bem-estar do consumidor com a apropriação da plataforma podem muito bem superar essas perdas (especulativas).

Fundamentalmente, as plataformas têm um incentivo para otimizar a abertura (e garantir aos complementadores retornos suficientes em seus investimentos específicos da plataforma). No entanto, isso não significa que a abertura máxima seja ideal; de fato, normalmente uma plataforma bem gerenciada exercerá controle de cima para baixo quando essa medida for mais importante e a abertura onde o controle ocorrer for menos significativa.[37]

Mas isso significa que é impossível saber se alguma restrição específica da plataforma (incluindo a autopriorização) na conduta do provedor de ponta é prejudicial e, da mesma forma, se qualquer mudança de mais para menos abertura (ou o contrário) é prejudicial.

Essa é a situação que leva à estrutura indeterminada e complexa dos empreendimentos de plataforma. Considere as grandes plataformas on-line, como Google e Facebook, por exemplo. Essas entidades obtêm a participação de usuários e complementadores ao disponibilizar gratuitamente o acesso às suas plataformas para uma ampla gama de usos, exercendo controle sobre o acesso apenas de maneira limitada para garantir alta qualidade e desempenho. Ao mesmo tempo, no entanto, esses operadores de plataforma também oferecem serviços proprietários em concorrência com complementadores, ou oferecem partes da plataforma para venda ou uso apenas mediante termos mais restritivos que facilitam um retorno financeiro à plataforma.

A chave é entender que, embora as restrições ao acesso e uso dos complementadores possam parecer restritivas, quando comparadas com um mundo imaginário sem restrições, nesse mundo a plataforma primeiramente nem sequer seria construída. Além disso, em comparação com o outro extremo — apropriação total (em que circunstâncias a plataforma também não seria construída…) — essas restrições são relativamente menores e representam muito menos do que a apropriação total de valor ou restrição de acesso. Como Jonathan Barnett resume adequadamente:

A [plataforma], portanto, enfrenta uma questão de compensação básica. Por um lado, deve perder o controle sobre uma parte da plataforma para obter a adoção do usuário. Por outro lado, deve exercer controle sobre alguma outra parte da plataforma, ou algum conjunto de bens ou serviços complementares, a fim de acumular receitas para cobrir os custos de desenvolvimento e manutenção (e, no caso de uma entidade com fins lucrativos, a fim de capturar quaisquer lucros remanescentes).[38]

Por exemplo, as empresas podem optar por favorecer seus próprios produtos ou serviços porque são elas mais capazes de garantir sua qualidade ou entrega rápida.[39] O Mercado Livre, por exemplo, pode estar em melhor posição para garantir que os produtos fornecidos pelo serviço de logística ‘Mercado Envios’ sejam entregues em tempo hábil em comparação com outros serviços. Os consumidores também podem se beneficiar da autopreferência de outras maneiras. Se, por exemplo, o Google fosse impedido de priorizar os vídeos do Google Maps ou do YouTube em seus resultados de busca, poderia ser mais difícil para os usuários encontrar resultados ideais e relevantes. Se a Amazon for proibida de preferir sua própria linha de produtos no mercado, ela poderá optar por não vender os produtos da concorrência.

O poder de proibir a exigência ou o incentivo de clientes de um produto para usar outro permitiria a limitação ou prevenção da autopreferência e de outros comportamentos semelhantes. Concedido, o direito da concorrência tradicional tem procurado restringir o “agrupamento” de produtos, exigindo que eles sejam comprados juntos, mas proibir o incentivo também vai muito além.

B.      Interoperabilidade

Outro mot du jour é a interoperabilidade, que pode se enquadrar no art. 10, inciso IV, do PL 2768. No contexto da regulamentação digital prévia, “interoperabilidade” significa que as empresas abrangidas podem ser forçadas a garantir que seus produtos se integrem a produtos de outras empresas. Por exemplo, exigir que uma rede social esteja aberta à integração com outros serviços e aplicativos, que um sistema operacional móvel esteja aberto a lojas de aplicativos de terceiros ou que um serviço de mensagens seja compatível com outros serviços de mensagens. Sem regulamentação, as empresas podem ou não optar por tornar seu software interoperável. No entanto, o DMA da Europa e a futura Lei de Mercados Digitais, Concorrência e Consumo (“DMCC”) do Reino Unido[40] permitirão que as autoridades assim o exijam. Outro exemplo é a “portabilidade” de dados, que permite aos clientes transferir seus dados de um fornecedor para outro, da mesma forma que um número de telefone pode ser mantido quando se muda de rede.

O argumento usual é que o poder de exigir interoperabilidade pode ser necessário para “superar os efeitos da rede e as barreiras à entrada/expansão”. No entanto, o governo brasileiro não deve ignorar que essa solução representa custos para a escolha do consumidor, em particular por levantar dificuldades com segurança e privacidade, além de ter benefícios questionáveis para a concorrência. De fato, não é como se a concorrência desaparecesse quando os clientes não conseguem migrar tão facilmente quanto ao acender uma luz. As empresas competem antecipadamente para atrair esses consumidores por meio de táticas como preços de penetração, ofertas introdutórias e guerras de preços.[41]

Um sistema fechado, ou seja, com interoperabilidade comparativamente limitada, pode ajudar a limitar os riscos de segurança e privacidade. Isso pode incentivar o uso da plataforma e melhorar a experiência do usuário. Por exemplo, ao permanecer relativamente fechada e com curadoria, a App Store da Apple oferece aos usuários a garantia de que os aplicativos atenderão a um determinado padrão de segurança e confiabilidade. Assim, ecossistemas “abertos” e “fechados” não são sinônimos de “bons” e “ruins” e, em vez disso, representam duas filosofias diferentes de design de produto, qualquer uma das quais pode ser preferida pelos consumidores. Ao forçar as empresas a operar plataformas “abertas”, as obrigações de interoperabilidade poderiam, assim, minar esse tipo de concorrência entre marcas e anular as escolhas do consumidor.

Além de potencialmente prejudicar a experiência do usuário, também é duvidoso que alguns dos mandatos de interoperabilidade, como aqueles entre mídias sociais ou serviços de mensagens, possam atingir seu objetivo declarado de reduzir as barreiras à entrada e promover uma maior concorrência. Os consumidores não são necessariamente mais propensos a migrar de plataforma simplesmente porque são interoperáveis. Na verdade, há um argumento a ser feito de que tornar os aplicativos de mensagens interoperáveis de fato reduz o incentivo para baixar aplicativos concorrentes, já que os usuários já podem interagir com os aplicativos dos concorrentes a partir do aplicativo de mensagens existente.

C.      Telas de Seleção

Algumas regras prévias procuram abordar a capacidade das empresas de influenciar a escolha dos aplicativos pelo usuário por meio da pré-instalação, padrões e design de lojas de aplicativos (isso pode se enquadrar no art. 10, parágrafo II, do Projeto de Lei 2768). Isso às vezes resultou na imposição de exigências para fornecer aos usuários “telas de seleção”, por exemplo, exigindo que os usuários escolham qual mecanismo de busca ou serviço de mapeamento está instalado em seu telefone. Nesse sentido, é importante entender as compensações em jogo aqui discutidas: as telas de seleção podem facilitar a competição, mas podem fazê-lo às custas da experiência do usuário, em termos do tempo necessário para fazer essas escolhas. Existe o risco, sem evidência de demanda do consumidor por ‘telas de seleção’, de que essas regras imponham a preferência do legislador por maior opcionalidade sobre o que é mais conveniente para os usuários. A menos que haja uma demanda pública explícita no Brasil por essas medidas, seria imprudente implementar uma obrigação de tela de seleção.

D.     Tamanho e Poder de Mercado

Em geral, muitas das proibições e obrigações contempladas nas regras  prévias visam o tamanho, a escalabilidade e a “importância estratégica” dos operadores existentes.”

É amplamente alegado que, devido aos efeitos de rede, os mercados digitais são propensos a “tombamento”, pelo que, quando um produtor ganha uma participação suficiente no mercado, ele rapidamente se torna um monopolista completo ou quase completo. Embora possam começar sendo muito competitivos, esses mercados, portanto, exibem uma característica marcante de o “vencedor leva tudo”. As regras prévias geralmente tentam evitar ou reverter esse resultado, visando o porte de uma empresa ou empresas com poder de mercado.

No entanto, existem muitos investimentos e inovações que – se permitidos – beneficiarão os consumidores, seja imediatamente ou no longo prazo, mas que podem ter algum efeito no aumento do poder de mercado, no porte de uma empresa ou em sua importância estratégica. De fato, melhorar os produtos de uma empresa e, assim, aumentar suas vendas muitas vezes levará a um aumento do poder de mercado.

Consequentemente, a segmentação de “porte/tamanho” ou conduta que reforça o poder de mercado, sem qualquer evidência de dano, cria um sério perigo de inibição muito ampla de pesquisa, inovação e investimento – tudo em detrimento dos consumidores. Na medida em que tais regras impeçam o crescimento e o desenvolvimento de empresas estabelecidas, elas também podem prejudicar a concorrência, uma vez é bem possível que essas mesmas empresas – se permitido – sejam mais propensas a desafiar o poder de mercado de outras empresas em outros mercados adjacentes. Os casos de lançamento de serviços de vídeo sob demanda da Disney, Apple, Amazon e Globo para competir com a Netflix e a introdução pela Meta do ‘Threads’, como um adversário do Twitter (ou ‘X’), parecem ser um exemplo. Neste caso, regras per se que tenham o objetivo de proibir o aumento do porte ou do poder de mercado em uma área podem, de fato, impedir a entrada de uma empresa em um mercado dominado por outra. Neste caso, a ação dos legisladores protege o poder de monopólio. Portanto, é necessária uma abordagem muito mais sutil da regulamentação.

A referência do Projeto de Lei 2768 a The Curse of Bigness, de Tim Wu, que notoriamente adota um ethos redutivo de “grande é ruim”, sugere que poderia estar sendo feita uma suposição igualmente falha.[42]

E.      Conclusão

Não consideramos apropriado reverter o ônus da prova em nenhum caso, no contexto das plataformas digitais. Sem evidências substanciais de que essa conduta cause danos generalizados a um interesse público bem definido (por exemplo, semelhante aos cartéis no contexto da lei de defesa da concorrência), não há justificativa para uma reversão do ônus da prova, e qualquer reversão nesse sentido corre o risco de minar os benefícios ao consumidor, a inovação e desencorajar o investimento na economia brasileira pelo medo justificado de que a conduta pró-concorrência resulte em multas e recursos. Da mesma forma, acreditamos que, quando o órgão executor nomeado estabelece um processo prima facie de dano, seja no contexto da lei de defesa da concorrência ou da regulamentação digital prévia, ele também deve estar preparado para abordar argumentos relacionados à eficiência.

Pergunta 9

É necessário que haja um regulador? Se sim, qual regulador estaria melhor capacitado para implementar a regulação prevista no PL 2768/2022? Anatel, o CADE, a ANPD, outro regulador existente ou novo? Justifique.

Apesar da falta de clareza com relação às metas e aos objetivos da lei, as regras propostas pelo Projeto de Lei 2768 parecem ser baseadas na concorrência, pelo menos na medida em que buscam reforçar a livre concorrência, a proteção do consumidor e combater o “abuso de poder econômico” (art. 4). Portanto, o órgão mais bem posicionado para aplicá-la seria, em princípio, o CADE (os objetivos da Lei 12.529/11, a Lei da Concorrência brasileira, se sobrepõem significativamente aos do Projeto de Lei 2768). Por outro lado, há um risco palpável de que, no cumprimento de suas atribuições nos termos do Projeto de Lei 2768, a Anatel poderia transpor a lógica e os princípios da regulamentação das telecomunicações para os mercados “digitais”, o que é um equívoco porque são duas coisas muito diferentes.

Não apenas os mercados “digitais” são substancialmente diferentes dos mercados de telecomunicações, mas realmente não existe um conceito claramente demarcado de “mercado digital”. Por exemplo, as plataformas digitais descritas no art. 6, parágrafo II, da Lei 2768 não são homogêneas e abrangem uma variedade de modelos de negócios diferentes. Além disso, praticamente todos os mercados hoje incorporam elementos “digitais”, como dados. De fato, as empresas que operam em setores tão divergentes como varejo, seguros, saúde, farmacêutica, produção e distribuição, foram todas “digitalizadas”. Assim, parece necessário um órgão executor com sutil entendimento da dinâmica da digitalização e, principalmente, das idiossincrasias das plataformas digitais como mercados bilaterais. Embora o CADE indiscutivelmente careça de experiência substantiva com plataformas digitais, ele está em melhor posição para fazer cumprir o Projeto de Lei 2768 do que a Anatel por causa de sua profunda experiência com a aplicação da política de concorrência.

Pergunta 10

Você avalia que poderia haver algum risco de bis in idem entre o regulador e a autoridade de concorrência com a mesma conduta sendo analisada por ambos?

Com base na experiência da UE, existe um risco de dupla penalização na interseção entre o direito da concorrência tradicional e a regulamentação digital prévia.

A título de comparação, e como escreveu Giuseppe Colangelo, o DMA baseia-se explicitamente na noção de que o direito da concorrência por si só é insuficiente para enfrentar efetivamente os desafios e problemas sistêmicos colocados pela economia da plataforma digital.[43] De fato, o escopo de defesa da concorrência é limitado a determinadas instâncias de poder de mercado (por exemplo, domínio em mercados específicos) e de comportamento anticompetitivo. Além disso, sua execução ocorre posteriormente e requer uma extensa investigação caso a caso do que muitas vezes são conjuntos de fatos muito complexos, e talvez não consigam abordar efetivamente os desafios ao bom funcionamento dos mercados colocados pela conduta dos guardiões, que não são necessariamente dominantes em termos do direito da concorrência — ou assim argumentam seus proponentes. Como resultado, regimes como o DMA invocam a intervenção regulatória para complementar as regras tradicionais do direito da concorrência, introduzindo um conjunto de obrigações prévias para plataformas on-line designadas como guardiães. Isso também permite que os órgãos executores se liberem do processo trabalhoso de definir mercados relevantes, provar dominância e mensurar os efeitos do mercado.

No entanto, apesar das alegações de que o DMA não é um instrumento do direito da concorrência e, portanto, não afetaria a forma como as regras de defesa da concorrência se aplicam nos mercados digitais, o regime parece obscurecer a linha entre regulamentação e defesa da concorrência, misturando suas respectivas características e objetivos. De fato, o DMA compartilha os mesmos objetivos e protege os mesmos interesses legais que o direito da concorrência.

Além disso, sua lista de proibições é efetivamente uma sinopse de processos de defesa da concorrência antigos e em andamento, como o Google Shopping (Processo T-612/17), a Apple (AT.40437) e a Amazon (Processos AT.40462 e AT.40703).[44] Reconhecendo a continuidade entre o direito da concorrência e o DMA, a European Competition Network (ECN) e alguns estados membros da UE (auto-intitulados “amigos de um DMA eficaz”) propuseram inicialmente capacitar as autoridades nacionais de defesa da concorrência (NCAs) para fazer cumprir as obrigações do DMA.[45]

Da mesma forma, as proibições e obrigações previstas no Art. 10 do PL 2768 poderiam, em tese, ser todas impostas pelo CADE. Na verdade, o CADE investigou, e ainda está investigando, várias grandes empresas que (provavelmente) se enquadram no âmbito do Projeto de Lei 2768, como o Google, Apple, Meta, (ainda sob investigação) Booking.com, Decolar.com, Expedia e iFood (investigações encerradas por acordo de cessação e desistência) e Uber (todas as investigações encerradas sem penalidades; após um estudo econômico, o CADE constatou que a entrada do Uber beneficiou os consumidores[46]). As investigações passadas e presentes do CADE contra essas empresas já abrangeram condutas que são alvo da DMA e do PL 2768, como recusa de negociação, auto preferência e discriminação.[47] As normas de concorrência existentes nos termos da Lei 12.529/11, a Lei de Concorrência Brasileira, portanto, claramente já captura o tipo de conduta que está incluída no Projeto de Lei 2768. Além disso, o requisito de usar dados “adequadamente” provavelmente é coberto pela regulamentação de proteção de dados no Brasil (Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados, LGPD, Lei Federal nº 13.709/2018).

A diferença entre os dois regimes é que, enquanto a lei geral antitruste exige uma demonstração de dano (mesmo que potencial) e isenta condutas com benefícios líquidos aos consumidores, o Projeto de Lei 2768, em princípio, não o faz. O único princípio limitante às proibições e obrigações contidas no Art. 10 Art. 11 (III) é o princípio da proporcionalidade — que é um princípio geral do direito constitucional e deve, em qualquer caso, ser aplicado independentemente do Projeto de Lei 2768. Assim, o único princípio limitante do Art. 10, enquadrado de forma ampla, é redundante.

Há uma outra complicação. O Projeto de Lei 2768 persegue muitos (embora não todos) dos mesmos objetivos que a Lei 12.529/11. Na medida em que esses objetivos são compartilhados, isso pode levar a um bis in idem, ou seja, a mesma conduta ser punida duas vezes sob regimes ligeiramente diferentes. Mas também poderia produzir resultados contraditórios porque, como apontado acima, os objetivos perseguidos pelos dois projetos de lei não são idênticos. A Lei 12.529/11 é orientada pelos objetivos de “livre concorrência, liberdade de iniciativa, papel social da propriedade, defesa do consumidor e prevenção do abuso do poder econômico” (Art. 1º). A esses objetivos, o Projeto de Lei 2768 acrescenta “redução das desigualdades regionais e sociais” e “aumento da participação social em questões de interesse público”. Embora seja verdade que esses princípios derivam do Art. 170 da Constituição Brasileira (“ordem econômica”), o descompasso entre os objetivos da Lei 12.529/11 e do Projeto de Lei 2768 e suas autoridades de supervisão é suficiente para levar a situações em que a conduta permitida ou mesmo incentivada pela Lei 12.529/11 é proibida pelo Projeto de Lei 2768. Por exemplo, a conduta pró concorrência por uma plataforma coberta pode, no entanto, exacerbar “desigualdades regionais ou sociais” porque investe fortemente em uma região, mas não em outras. Da mesma forma, medidas de segurança, privacidade e proteção implementadas por, digamos, um operador de uma App Store, que normalmente seriam consideradas benéficas para os consumidores nos termos da lei antitruste,[48] poderiam levar a uma menor participação em discussões de interesse público (assumindo que se poderia facilmente definir o significado de tal termo).

Consequentemente, o Projeto de Lei 2768 poderia fragmentar a estrutura legal do Brasil devido a sobreposições com o direito da concorrência, sufocar a conduta pró concorrência e levar a resultados contraditórios. Isso, por sua vez, provavelmente afetará a segurança jurídica e o estado democrático de direito no Brasil, o que poderia afetar adversamente o Investimento Estrangeiro Direto.[49] Além disso, é provável que a coordenação entre o CADE e a Anatel seja onerosa caso esta última acabe sendo a fiscalização designada do PL 2768. O Brasil teria essencialmente duas Leis que buscam objetivos iguais ou semelhantes sendo implementados por duas agências diferentes, com todos os custos extras de conformidade e coordenação que acompanham essa duplicidade.

Pergunta 11

Qual sua avaliação acerca do critério do art. 9 do PL 2768/2022? Deve ser alterado? Por qual critério? Cabe fazer a designação de detentor de poder de controle de acesso essencial serviço a serviço?

Esse critério parece arbitrário e, de qualquer modo, extremamente irrelevante. Não há nenhuma razão objetiva que vincule o “poder de controlar o acesso” ao volume de negócios. Além disso, mesmo que se admita, por uma questão de argumentação, que o volume de negócios é um indicador relevante de poder de gatekeeper, um limite de R$ 70 milhões capturaria dezenas, se não centenas, de empresas ativas em uma variedade de setores. Isso pode levar a uma situação em que uma lei que inicialmente — e supostamente — visava empresas “digitais” muito específicas, como o Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc., acaba, em geral, cobrindo uma série de outras empresas comparativamente pequenas, incluindo alguns dos unicórnios mais valiosos do Brasil (ver Pergunta 7). Por outro lado, também é questionável, do ponto de vista do estado democrático de direito, se uma lei deve procurar identificar antecipadamente as empresas específicas às quais se aplicará.

As lições podem ser tiradas da DMCC do Reino Unido, que cometeu um erro semelhante. De acordo com o atual projeto da DMCC, a CMA do Reino Unido poderá designar uma empresa como se tivesse “status de mercado significativo” (“SMS”) se participar de uma “atividade digital ligada ao Reino Unido” e, em relação a essa atividade digital, se tiver “poder de mercado substancial e arraigado” e estiver em “uma posição de importância estratégica” (s. 2), assim como contar com um faturamento de pelo menos £ 1 bilhão no Reino Unido ou £ 25 bilhões globalmente (s. 7).[50] O governo britânico afirmou anteriormente que o “regime será direcionado a um pequeno número de empresas”.

No entanto, com exceção do limite monetário, os critérios de SMS são todos amplamente definidos e poderiam, em teoria, capturar até 530 empresas (em março de 2022, havia 530 empresas com mais de £ 1 bilhão em receita no Reino Unido, de acordo com o Departamento de Estatísticas Nacionais).[51] Assim, embora o governo afirme que o novo regime é destinado a um punhado de empresas, na prática, o CMA terá o poder de interferir de várias maneiras novas em amplas faixas da economia.

O Artigo 9º do Projeto de Lei 2768 se depara com um problema semelhante. Deferido, identifica os tipos de serviços aos quais o Projeto de Lei se aplicaria de uma forma que a DMCC não faz. No entanto, algumas das categorias previstas ainda são muito amplas: por exemplo, os serviços de intermediação online podem abranger qualquer site que conecte compradores e vendedores ou facilite transações entre duas partes. “Sistemas operacionais” são dispositivos eletrônicos predominantes muito além do iOS da Apple e do Android do Google. De fato, um sistema operacional é apenas um programa ou conjunto de programas de um sistema de computador, que gerencia os recursos físicos (hardware), os protocolos de execução do restante do conteúdo (software), bem como a interface do usuário. Eles podem ser encontrados em muitos dispositivos do dia a dia, seja por meio de interfaces gráficas de usuário, ambientes de desktop, gerenciadores de window ou linhas de comando, dependendo da natureza do dispositivo.

As empresas que prestam esses serviços, independentemente de sua posição na concorrência, participação de mercado, setor do qual fazem parte ou quaisquer outras considerações econômicas ou de fato, seriam todas abrangidas pelo PL 2768, desde que atendessem o (baixo) limite de R$ 70 milhões. O resultado é que o fiscalizador poderá aplicar a o Projeto de Lei 2768 contra uma série de empresas muito diferentes, algumas das quais podem realmente não estar em posição de prejudicar a concorrência ou usar indevidamente seu poder de mercado. Como consequência, o Projeto de Lei corre o risco de desencorajar o crescimento, a inovação e, de fato, o sucesso, à medida que as empresas se tornam cautelosas em ultrapassar um certo limite por medo de serem pegas na mira do regulador. Juntamente com uma reversão do ônus da prova e a possibilidade de ignorar argumentos de eficiência, o Projeto de Lei daria ao fiscalizador poderes robustos e não controlados, o que poderia levantar questões do estado democrático de direito.

Este problema pode ser remediado, pelo menos em certa medida, adicionando uma série de critérios qualitativos que podem ou não funcionar cumulativamente com os limites quantitativos previstos no Projeto de Lei. Esses critérios devem exigir uma demonstração de que as empresas em questão controlam o acesso a instalações essenciais, que tais instalações não podem ser razoavelmente replicadas e que o acesso está sendo negado com a ameaça de que a concorrência no mercado possa ser eliminada (consulte a Pergunta 1 para discussão sobre a integração da doutrina de instalações essenciais no Projeto de Lei 2768). Além disso, o Projeto de Lei 2768 deve alavancar as medições existentes do poder de mercado a partir da lei da concorrência, como a capacidade de controlar a produção e aumentar os preços. Os critérios quantitativos, se usados, devem ser significativamente maiores e também se referem ao número de usuários ativos em cada serviço de plataforma coberto. “Usuário ativo” deve, nesse sentido, ser definido como um usuário que usa um serviço específico pelo menos uma vez por dia e, no mínimo, uma vez por semana.

Pergunta 12

O que você achou das regras sobre o Fundo de Fiscalização das Plataformas Digitais do art. 15 do PL 2768/2022? Haveria uma outra forma de financiar este tipo de atividade regulatória do governo?

Existem muitas maneiras de financiar a atividade regulatória governamental que não exigem que as empresas-alvo paguem um imposto anual. As agências governamentais são normalmente financiadas pelo orçamento geral do governo — que deve ser o mesmo para a agência que executa o Projeto de Lei 2768.

Existem pelo menos duas questões sobre a abordagem atual nos termos do Art. 15. A primeira é a captura. Se a atividade de uma agência for financiada pelas empresas reguladas, isso pode levar à captura da agência pela empresa regulada e facilitar a busca de renda — ou seja, a situação em que uma empresa usa o regulador para obter uma vantagem injusta sobre os concorrentes. Em segundo lugar, também cria um incentivo por parte da agência e do governo para ampliar o escopo das empresas-alvo, como forma de garantir mais financiamento e recursos. Isso cria um incentivo perverso que não se alinha ao interesse público. Também desencoraja o investimento e, de certa forma, equivale a um clamor do governo.

Além disso, na medida em que o Projeto de Lei opera como uma restrição direta e direcionada ao exercício por certas empresas de sua liberdade econômica e direitos de propriedade privada para o benefício presumido do bem-estar público, parece apropriado que ele seja financiado por fundos de receita geral, distribuídos de acordo com a política tributária atual sobre toda a população contribuinte.

Pergunta 13

Em que medida você acredita que todos os problemas tratados no projeto de lei 2768/2022 já são adequadamente tratados pela legislação de concorrência, mais especificamente pelo CADE, com os instrumentos da Lei nº 12.529 de 2011?

Consulte a resposta à Pergunta 10.

O fato de o governo estar fazendo essa pergunta nesta fase do processo sugere que talvez o escopo e os detalhes do Projeto de Lei 2768 não tenham sido completamente pensados. O Projeto de Lei 2768 deve ser aprovado apenas se estiver claro que a lei de concorrência brasileira não está à altura da tarefa. Em comparação, e como indicado na resposta à pergunta 10 acima, praticamente toda a conduta na DMA da UE também foi abordada através da lei da concorrência da UE — muitas vezes a favor da Comissão. No entanto, a UE queria codificar um conjunto de regras que garantissem que a Comissão não tivesse que litigar em processos perante os tribunais e vencesse todos os processos — ou pelo menos a grande maioria deles — contra plataformas digitais. Mas essa decisão, com a qual se pode ou não concordar, veio depois de pelo menos alguma experiência na aplicação da lei da concorrência às plataformas digitais e da determinação de que os ganhos de tal abordagem superariam os custos manifestos.

Por outro lado, o CADE do Brasil goza de uma experiência muito mais limitada nesse sentido e o próprio Brasil apresenta realidades econômicas e interesses de consumo muito diferentes que podem não render a mesma análise de custo/benefício. Como mencionado acima, as únicas “penalidades” impostas pelo CADE contra “plataformas digitais” resultaram de acordos voluntários, o que significa que houve uma necessidade limitada de litigar em processos “digitais” no Brasil. Há uma sensação persistente de que o Projeto de Lei 2768 foi proposto não em resposta a deficiências na estrutura da lei da concorrência existente, ou em resposta às necessidades identificadas específicas do Brasil, mas como uma resposta às “tendências globais” iniciadas pela UE.

O Art. 13 do PL 2768, por exemplo, prevê que as incorporações por empresas abrangidas serão examinadas de acordo com as regras gerais da lei da concorrência aplicáveis a outras empresas e em outros setores. Não está claro por que a mesma lógica não poderia ser aplicada em todos os setores — ou seja, a todas as condutas potencialmente contra a concorrência por empresas visadas. Por que algumas condutas que podem ser abordadas por meio da lei antitruste exigem regulamentação especial, mas outras não?

Pergunta 14

Que problemas poderiam ser gerados para a atividade de inovação das plataformas digitais caso haja a regulação de plataformas digitais propostas pelo Projeto de Lei 2768/2022? Isso poderia ser tratado de alguma forma dentro do PL 2768/2022?

De fato, não está de forma alguma claro que as circunstâncias particulares do Brasil sejam passíveis de uma abordagem “ex ante” semelhante à da UE.

Proibições e obrigações amplas, como as impostas pelo Art. 10 do Projeto de Lei 2768, correm o risco de esfriar a conduta inovadora e congelar a tecnologia existente. Como o décimo país classificado no mercado global de tecnologia da informação e com centenas de startups no setor de IA, o Brasil é um mercado em expansão com um tremendo potencial.[52] Sua população de 214 milhões significa que as tendências de crescimento devem continuar — e, com certeza, o número de empregos em aplicativos cresceu 54% em 2023 em comparação com 2019.[53]

No entanto, regras estáticas e rígidas, como as previstas pelo Projeto de Lei 2768, podem cortar o crescimento das startups brasileiras pela raiz, impondo custos regulatórios insuperáveis (que, de qualquer forma, beneficiariam os operadores estabelecidos em comparação com concorrentes menores) e proibindo condutas capazes de promover o crescimento, beneficiar os consumidores e inflamar a concorrência, como a auto preferência e a recusa em negociar.

De fato, ambas as práticas podem — e muitas vezes são — socialmente benéficas. Conforme discutido na Pergunta 8, apesar de sua recente difamação por alguns formuladores de políticas, a “auto preferência” é uma conduta comercial normal e uma razão fundamental para a integração vertical eficiente, que evita a dupla marginalização e permite que as empresas coordenem melhor a produção, distribuição e venda de forma mais eficiente — tudo em benefício final dos consumidores. Por exemplo, serviços de varejo, como a Amazon, que preferem seus próprios serviços de entrega, como no caso de “Entrega pela Amazon”, oferecem aos consumidores algo que eles valorizam tremendamente: uma garantia de entrega rápida. Como escrevemos em outro lugar:

A concessão de privilégios de marketplace pela Amazon a produtos [Entrega pela Amazon] pode ajudar os usuários a escolher os produtos que a Amazon pode garantir que melhor atenderão às suas necessidades. Isso é perfeitamente plausível, pois os clientes mostraram repetidamente que muitas vezes preferem opções menos abertas e menos neutras.[54]

Em um relatório recente, a Comissão Australiana de Concorrência reconheceu esse fato, afirmando que a auto preferência é muitas vezes benigna e pode levar a benefícios pró concorrência.[55] De fato, existem muitas razões legítimas pelas quais as empresas podem optar pela auto preferência, incluindo melhor experiência do cliente, atendimento ao cliente, escolha mais relevante (curadoria) e preços mais baixos.[56] Assim, proibir a auto preferência, ou de outra forma desencorajar significativamente as empresas de se engajarem na auto preferência, poderia prejudicar o crescimento da empresa — inclusive por empresas brasileiras que estão atualmente em um estágio inicial de desenvolvimento — e impedir a entrada de empresas que poderiam ser inovadoras no mercado.

Da mesma forma, forçar as empresas a lidar com terceiros poderia sufocar a inovação, incentivando o efeito carona (free-riding) e desencorajando as empresas a fazer investimentos. De fato, por que uma empresa inovaria ou investiria se sabe que terá que compartilhar esses investimentos e inovações com concorrentes passivos que não assumiram nenhum desses riscos? A consequência é um impasse em que, em vez de lutar para ser o primeiro a inovar e desfrutar dos frutos gerados por essa inovação, as empresas são incentivadas a jogar com o sistema, esperando que os outros deem o primeiro passo para, em seguida, aproveitar as conquistas. Isso essencialmente inverte o processo de concorrência dinâmica, reorganizando artificialmente o incentivo à inovação e ao investimento versus o incentivo ao free-ride, reduzindo os benefícios do primeiro e aumentando os benefícios do segundo.

Seria catastrófico criar uma barreira na capacidade do Brasil de expandir seu setor de tecnologia e inovar — especialmente considerando o vasto potencial do país. De fato, em vez de um triunfo da regulamentação sobre a inovação, o Brasil deve se esforçar para ser exatamente o oposto.[57]

Pergunta 15

Quais seriam as dificuldades práticas de aplicação deste tipo de legislação contemplado pelo PL 2768/2022?

Os fundos para financiar o que poderia ser uma quantidade considerável de execução são necessários, mas não suficientes, para garantir a eficácia. Na UE, a DG Concorrência da Comissão, uma das principais e mais bem dotadas autoridades de concorrência do mundo, luta para contratar o pessoal necessário para implementar a Lei dos Mercados Digitais. Em suma, os “especialistas em DMA” atualmente não existem — e a Comissão terá que treinar esses especialistas ou contratá-los quando a experiência se desenvolver por meio da aplicação da lei. Mas isso cria um cenário de galinha e ovo, em que a fiscalização — ou pelo menos uma boa fiscalização — não pode acontecer sem bons especialistas, e bons especialistas não podem se materializar sem fiscalização. Não há razão para acreditar que essas considerações não se enquadram no contexto brasileiro.

O Brasil, no entanto, enfrenta um desafio adicional: atrair talentos. Ao contrário da UE, onde os cargos na Comissão são altamente cobiçados devido aos altos salários, benefícios e segurança no emprego que conferem, os recursos do CADE são mais modestos e provavelmente não podem competir plenamente com o setor privado. Assim, antes de aprovar o Projeto de Lei 2768, o governo deve ser claro sobre como a lei seria aplicada e por quem.

Outras questões incluem o pesado ônus de conformidade do Projeto de Lei, que afetará não apenas os chamados “gigantes da tecnologia”, mas qualquer empresa acima do modesto limite de faturamento de R$ 70 milhões, as dificuldades em interpretar as proibições e obrigações ambíguas previstas no Art. 10 (e o litígio que pode ocorrer, vide Pergunta 16), o custo de elaboração de recursos adequados na acepção do Art. 10 e a possibilidade iminente de que o Projeto de Lei capture a conduta pró concorrência e sufoque a inovação. Como escrevemos com relação aos países da ASEAN e à possibilidade de implementar a regulamentação da concorrência no estilo da UE:

As nações da ASEAN têm políticas extremamente diversas em relação ao papel do governo na economia. Simplificando, algumas das nações da ASEAN parecem inadequadas para a tecnocracia de longo alcance que quase inevitavelmente flui da adoção do modelo europeu de fiscalização da concorrência. Outros podem simplesmente não ter recursos suficientes para agências de pessoal que poderiam, satisfatoriamente, realizar o tipo de investigação de longo alcance pelas quais a Comissão Europeia é famosa.[58]

Pergunta 16

Você vê muito espaço para judicialização deste tipo de regulação previsto no PL 2768/2022? Em quais dispositivos?

A aplicação do Projeto de Lei 2768 provavelmente levará a litígios substanciais, até porque muitos dos conceitos centrais do Projeto de Lei são ambíguos e abertos à interpretação.

Por exemplo, o que implica uma conduta “discriminatória” na acepção do Art. 10, parágrafo II? Uma plataforma coberta pode tratar os usuários de negócios de forma diferente com base em critérios objetivos, como qualidade, histórico e confiabilidade, ou todos os usuários de negócios devem ser tratados igualmente? Nesse sentido, é incerto se o significado específico atribuído a “conduta discriminatória” no âmbito da lei da concorrência se aplica no contexto. Da mesma forma, o que significa o uso “adequado” dos dados coletados no exercício das atividades de uma empresa (parágrafo III)? O parágrafo IV do Art. 10 implica que uma plataforma coberta nunca pode negar acesso a usuários comerciais? Presumivelmente, as plataformas cobertas vão querer saber como e por que essa obrigação geral se desvia da doutrina de instalações essenciais mais restritas nos termos da lei de concorrência brasileira.

O Art. 11 acrescenta certas ressalvas a isso, como que a intervenção deve ser adaptada, proporcional e considerar o impacto, os custos e os benefícios. Novamente, que tipo de impacto, custos e benefícios são relevantes — para consumidores, usuários comerciais, a plataforma coberta, a sociedade como um todo?

Se isso for verdade, é provável que o Projeto de Lei 2768 seja legalmente controverso.

Pergunta 17

As definições do art. 6º do projeto de lei 2768/2022 estão adequadas para o propósito desta proposição?

O Art. 6º e, de fato, todo o ímpeto por trás do Projeto de Lei 2768 se baseiam em duas premissas questionáveis:

  1. Que os produtos e serviços cobertos são diferentes de outros produtos ou serviços; e

Que esses produtos e serviços são suficientemente semelhantes para serem considerados (e regulamentados) como um grupo.

O primeiro seria mais convincente se os recursos previstos no PL, como não discriminação, uso adequado de dados e acesso, não tivessem sido utilizados anteriormente em outros mercados e para outros produtos. A concessão de acesso em termos “justos, razoáveis e não discriminatórios” (“FRAND”) é frequentemente usada no contexto da lei de concorrência e da lei de PI, ambas aplicáveis em todos os setores. O dever de usar os dados “adequadamente” é geralmente previsto nas leis de proteção de dados, que também se aplicam amplamente. O mesmo pode ser dito para as obrigações de acesso, que são frequentes nos termos da lei da concorrência e em indústrias regulamentadas (como telecomunicações ou ferrovias).

Além disso, nem os produtos e serviços do Art. 6º do PL, as empresas que os operam, nem os modelos de negócios que empregam são monolíticos. Assistentes de voz e mídias sociais, por exemplo, são produtos muito diferentes. Isso também pode ser dito sobre a computação em nuvem, que não é realmente uma “plataforma” no sentido de que, digamos, a intermediação é online. Os produtos e serviços no Art. 6 também são altamente heterogêneos, com uma única categoria abrangendo uma lista heterogênea de produtos, de comércio eletrônico a mapas on-line e lojas de aplicativos.

O mesmo argumento se aplica às empresas que vendem esses produtos e serviços, que — apesar do onipresente apelido de “Gigantes da Tecnologia” — são, em última análise, empresas muito diferentes.[59] Como disse o CEO da Apple, Tim Cook: “A tecnologia não é monolítica. Isso seria como dizer que “Todos os restaurantes são iguais” ou “Todas as redes de TV são iguais”. ”[60]

Por exemplo, enquanto o Google (Alphabet) e o Facebook (Meta) são empresas de tecnologia da informação especializadas em publicidade online, a Apple continua sendo principalmente uma empresa de eletrônicos, com cerca de 75% de sua receita proveniente da venda de iMacs, iPhones, iPads e acessórios. Como Amanda Lotz, da Universidade de Michigan, observou:

Os lucros dessas vendas de [hardware] permitem que a Apple use estratégias muito diferentes das empresas não relacionadas a hardware [“Gigantes da Tecnologia”] com as quais é frequentemente comparada.[61]

Isso também significa que a maioria de seus outros negócios — como iMessage, iTunes, Apple Pay, etc. — são complementos que “a Apple usa estrategicamente para apoiar seu foco principal como empresa de hardware”. A Amazon, por outro lado, é principalmente uma varejista, com suas divisões Amazon Web Services e de publicidade respondendo por apenas 15% e 7% da receita da empresa, respectivamente.[62]

Mesmo quando dois “gatekeepers” estão ativos no mesmo mercado de produtos/serviços, eles geralmente têm modelos e práticas de negócios notavelmente diferentes. Assim, apesar de ambos venderem sistemas operacionais para celulares, o Android (Google) e a Apple empregam filosofias de design de produtos muito diferentes. Como argumentamos em um instrumento amicus curiae apresentado no mês passado à Suprema Corte dos EUA no processo Apple v. Epic Games:

Para a Apple e seus usuários, a referência de uma boa plataforma não é a “abertura”, mas a seleção e a segurança cuidadosamente aplicadas, entendidas em termos gerais como se abrangessem a remoção de conteúdo questionável, a proteção da privacidade e a proteção contra a “engenharia social”, e assim por diante…. Por outro lado, a aposta do Android é no modelo de plataforma aberta, que sacrifica algum grau de segurança pela maior variedade e personalização associadas a uma distribuição mais aberta. Essas são diferenças legítimas no design do produto e na filosofia de negócios.[63]

Essas várias empresas e mercados têm diversos incentivos, estratégias e designs de produtos, desmentindo, portanto, a ideia de que existe qualquer noção econômica e tecnicamente coerente do que compreende “gatekeeping”. Em outras palavras, tanto os produtos e serviços que estariam sujeitos ao Art. 6º do PL 2768 quanto essas próprias empresas são altamente heterogêneos e não está claro por que eles são colocados sob o mesmo aspecto.

Pergunta 18

Em lugar de uma regulação ex-ante pura, faria sentido algum outro tipo de acompanhamento e/ou regulação dos mercados digitais?

Uma unidade especial dentro do CADE, operando dentro dos limites das leis antitruste atuais, deve ser seriamente avaliada antes de se apressar para adotar uma regulamentação ex ante de longo alcance nos mercados digitais. A maior parte da conduta abrangida pela regulamentação ex ante na UE, por exemplo, é derivada de processos envolvendo o direito da concorrência. Isto sugere que tal conduta se enquadra nos limites do direito tradicional da concorrência e pode ser devidamente abordada através do direito da concorrência da UE.

Consequentemente, uma unidade digital dentro do CADE alavancaria o expertise de funcionários com experiência na aplicação da lei antitruste aos “mercados digitais”. As chances são de que, se tal unidade não puder ser formada dentro do CADE, que possui funcionários com a experiência que mais se assemelha ao que seria necessário para fazer cumprir o Projeto de Lei 2768, provavelmente não poderá ser formada em nenhum outro lugar — pelo menos não sem desviar talentos do CADE. Isso seria um erro, pois o CADE tem um papel essencial na supressão de comportamentos que prejudicam inequivocamente o interesse público, como os cartéis (indiscutivelmente, é aí que o Brasil deveria concentrar seus recursos).[64] A criação de uma nova unidade para processar novas condutas com efeitos incertos sobre o bem-estar social em detrimento da supressão de condutas manifestamente prejudiciais não passa por uma análise de custo-benefício e, em última análise, prejudicaria a economia do Brasil.

Pergunta 19

Você acha que o conjunto de soluções descritas no art. 10 do PL 2768/2022 são adequadas?

É difícil responder a essa pergunta sem uma noção clara do que o Projeto de Lei 2768 visa alcançar. Adequado para quê?

Pergunta 20

O conjunto de sanções previstas no art. 16 do PL 2768/2022 está adequado?

Também difícil de responder. Se o objetivo é frustrar todas as condutas proibidas, independentemente das consequências para a inovação, o investimento e a satisfação do consumidor, então é necessária uma multa alta — e muitas empresas deixarão de fazer negócios como resultado (o que efetivamente interromperá todo comportamento indesejável – mas também todo comportamento desejável). Se aumentar a receita é o objetivo, então a quantidade de fiscalização vezes o nível de sanção precisa ser baixa o suficiente para operar não como um obstáculo ao comportamento, mas como uma taxa para fazer negócios. Não sabemos se o nível de sanções no Art. 16 é apropriado para isso — nem, acrescentamos, se essa é a intenção de tal lei!

Por outro lado, se a dissuasão ideal é o objetivo, a imposição de sanções consideravelmente mais baixas do que as da UE (como seria uma sanção de 2% do faturamento brasileiro das empresas infratoras) parece razoável. Multas por infrações antitruste na UE podem ser de até 10% do faturamento mundial da empresa; e multas por violações do DMA podem chegar a 20%.[65] Mas o Brasil não deve procurar dissuadir o investimento e a inovação na medida em que a UE o fez.

É claro que é difícil identificar um nexo de causalidade entre multas de concorrência e investimento/inovação. Mas o que sabemos é o seguinte: O ritmo de crescimento econômico na Europa ficou atrás dos EUA por uma margem significativa:

Quinze anos atrás, o tamanho da economia europeia era 10% maior que o dos EUA, no entanto, em 2022, era 23% menor. O PIB da União Europeia (incluindo o Reino Unido antes do Brexit) cresceu neste período em 21% (medido em dólares), em comparação com 72% dos EUA e 290% da China.[66]

Enquanto isso, nenhuma das 10 maiores empresas de tecnologia do mundo, e apenas duas das 25 maiores, estão sediadas na Europa.[67] E as grandes multinacionais americanas e asiáticas estão espalhadas por toda a indústria de tecnologia, desde componentes eletrônicos (chips, telefones celulares e computadores) até empresas de desenvolvimento de aplicativos, sites e comércio eletrônico. Pode haver muitas razões para essas discrepâncias, mas uma delas é quase certamente as diferenças nos ambientes regulatórios econômicos, incluindo a extensão da dissuasão da lei da concorrência.[68]

Pergunta 21

O art. 10 prevê várias obrigações em uma lista não taxativa na qual o regulador poderia impor outras medidas. Caberia prever um rol taxativo de medidas?

Listas exaustivas têm a vantagem de promover a previsibilidade e a discrição do fiscalizador, limitando assim a busca de renda e garantindo que a execução permaneça vinculada ao interesse público. Supondo, é claro, que o tipo de medidas previstas atue no interesse público em primeiro lugar.

O problema de como o Projeto de Lei 2768 é enquadrado em seu estado atual é que ele é muito aberto. É compreensível que o Projeto de Lei 2768 não queira amarrar as mãos dos fiscalizadores e tenha optado por intervenções sob medida, em vez de proibições e obrigações gerais. Isso é bom. No entanto, não deve vir à custa da segurança jurídica e não deve deixar de impor limites ao poder discricionário do fiscalizador. Atualmente, isso não parece ser o caso.

O Art. 10 prevê, assim, que os operadores de plataforma estarão sujeitos “entre outras, às seguintes obrigações…” Não está claro, a partir desta lista numerus apertus, o que o fiscalizador pode e não pode fazer. Mas o problema é mais profundo do que apenas o Artigo 10; em nenhum lugar do Projeto de Lei é explicado quais são os objetivos das novas regras. A proposta de reformulação do Artigo 19-A da Lei 9.472, de 16 de julho de 1997, nos parágrafos III, IV e V, é vaga – não impõe princípios limitantes suficientemente claros que estejam ao alcance do Projeto de Lei. De fato, sugere que os objetivos do Projeto de Lei 2768 seriam prevenir conflitos de interesse, prevenir violações de direitos do usuário e prevenir infrações econômicas por plataformas digitais em áreas de competência do CADE. O Artigo 4º do PL 2768 inclui outros objetivos: liberdade de iniciativa, livre concorrência, defesa do consumidor, redução da desigualdade regional e social, repressão ao poder econômico e reforço à participação social. Em outros pontos, está implícito que o objetivo é diminuir o “poder de gatekeeper” (em “Justificativas”).

Em outras palavras, não está claro o que o Projeto de Lei 2768 não permite que o fiscalizador faça.

Além disso, as proibições e obrigações dos Parágrafos I-IV do Art. 10 são igualmente obscuras. Por exemplo, qual é o uso “adequado” dos dados coletados? (III). O parágrafo IV implica que uma plataforma direcionada nunca pode recusar o acesso ao seu serviço? Na verdade, uma coisa que está faltando no Projeto de Lei 2768 é a capacidade de escapar de uma proibição ou obrigação, demonstrando eficiências ou por meio de uma justificativa objetiva (como, por exemplo, segurança e proteção ou privacidade).

Claramente, o Projeto de Lei 2768 não pode prever todos os casos em que o Art. 10 será usado. Contudo, a fim de encontrar um equilíbrio entre a agilidade do fiscalizador e a administração e previsibilidade da lei, ele precisa dar uma explicação mais focada dos objetivos do Projeto de Lei e como as disposições do Art. 10 ajudam a alcançá-los. Em outras palavras: Os Artigos 3, 4 e 10 precisam ser muito mais claros. Caso contrário, o Projeto de Lei corre o risco de mais prejudicar do que ajudar empresas-alvo, usuários comerciais, concorrentes e, em última análise, os consumidores. A seção “Justificativas” do Projeto de Lei afirma que não deseja impor uma “camisa de força” às empresas visadas por meio da imposição de regras ex ante rígidas. Isso é razoável, especialmente considerando a falta de provas de danos inequívocos. Mas conceder a um fiscalizador como a Anatel, que não tem experiência em “mercados digitais”, poderes amplamente definidos para intervir com base em objetivos igualmente amplos equivale a impor uma camisa de força com outro nome. Em um “cenário” regulatório em que as empresas nunca têm certeza do que é e do que não é permitido, algumas podem razoavelmente optar por não assumir riscos, inovar e trazer novos produtos ao mercado – porque não desejam correr o risco de estarem sujeitas a multas (Art. 16) e possíveis soluções estruturais, como rupturas (Art. 10, parágrafo único). Em outras palavras, eles podem assumir que muito mais é proibido do que é realmente proibido.

 

[1] PL 2768/2022, Dispõe sobre a organização, o funcionamento e a operação das plataformas digitais que oferecem serviços ao público brasileiro e dá outras providências, available at https://www.camara.leg.br/proposicoesWeb/fichadetramitacao?idProposicao=2337417.

[2] REGULAMENTO (EU) 2022/1925 DO PARLAMENTO EUROPEU E DO CONSELHO de14 de setembro de 2022 relativo à disputabilidade e equidade dos mercados no setor digital e que altera as Diretivas (UE) 2019/1937 e (UE) 2020/1828 (Regulamento dos Mercados Digitais).

[3] Processo C-7/97 Bronner, EU:C:1998:569.

[4] Vide, por exemplo, a decisão majoritária da Comissária Ana Frazão no Processo nº 08012.003918/2005-14 (Requerida: Telemar Norte Leste S.A.), parágrafos 60-62, https://tinyurl.com/4dc38vvk.

[5] Vide decisão majoritária relatada do Comissário Mauricio Maia no Processo Administrativo nº 08012.010483/2011-94 (Requeridas: Google Inc. e Google Brasil Internet Ltda.), parágrafos 180-94; 224-42, https://tinyurl.com/3c9emytw.

[6] Um relatório de 2021 do IBRAC identificou a alta taxa de entrada no mercado de plataformas de vendas on-line. Vide IBRAC, Revista do Revista do IBRAC Número 2-2021, disponível em https://ibrac.org.br/UPLOADS/PDF/RevistadoIBRAC/Revista_do_IBRAC_2_2021.pdf.

[7] Bronner, Par. 67.

[8] Vide Colangelo, G. (2022). The Digital Markets Act and EU Antitrust Enforcement: Double & Triple Jeopardy, ICLE White Paper, disponível em: https://laweconcenter.org/resources/the-digital-markets-act-and-eu-antitrust-enforcement-double-triple-jeopardy.

[9] CADE, Mercados de Plataformas Digitais, SEPN 515 Conjunto D, Lote 4, Ed. Carlos Taurisano CEP: 70.770-504 – Brasília/DF, disponível em https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/Caderno_Plataformas-Digitais_Atualizado_29.08.pdf.

[10] Sobre a noção de que as regras do estilo DMA são “leis de concorrência específicas do setor”, vide Nicolas Petit, The Proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA): A Legal and Policy Review, 12 J. Eur. Compet. Law & Pract. 529 (11 Maio 2021).

[11] Vide Verizon Communications, Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, 540 U.S. 398 (2003). “Obrigar essas empresas a compartilhar a fonte de sua vantagem tensiona, de alguma forma, o propósito subjacente da lei de defesa da concorrência, uma vez que pode diminuir o incentivo para o monopolista, o rival ou ambos investirem nessas instalações economicamente benéficas.”

[12] Hou, L. (2012). The Essential Facilities Doctrine – What Was Wrong in Microsoft? International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law, 43(4), 251-71, 260.

[13] Vide Williamson, O.E., The Vertical Integration of Production: Market Failure Considerations, 61 Am. Econ. Rev. 112/1971); Klein, B., Asset Specificity and Holdups, em The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics, PG Klein & M. Sykuta, eds. (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010), 120–126.

[14] Decisão da Comissão nº AT.39740 — Google Search (Shopping).

[15] A. Hoffman, Where Does Website Traffic Come From: Search Engine and Referral Traffic, Traffic Generation Café (25 Dezembro 2018), https://trafficgenerationcafe.com/website-traffic-source-search-engine-referral.

[16] Vide Manne, G., Against the vertical discrimination presumption (Maio 2020), Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267, https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword.

[17] Sobre a necessidade de cautela ao conceder um direito de acesso, vide, por exemplo, Trinko: “Temos sido muito cautelosos ao reconhecer essas exceções [ao direito de [um] comerciante ou fabricante envolvido em um negócio inteiramente privado, de livremente exercer seu próprio critério independente quanto às partes com as quais ele negociará], devido à característica incerta de compartilhamento forçado e à dificuldade de identificar e remediar condutas contra a concorrência por uma única empresa.”

[18] United States v. Aluminum Co. of America, 148 F.2d 416, 430 (2d Cir. 1945).

[19] “Assim, como uma questão geral, a Lei Sherman ‘não restringe o direito reconhecido há muito tempo de [um] comerciante ou fabricante envolvido em um negócio inteiramente privado, de livremente exercer seu próprio critério independente quanto às partes com as quais ele negociará.’” United States v. Colgate & Co., 250 U. S. 300, 307 (1919).

[20] Foremost Pro Color, Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 703 F.2d 534, 545 (9th Cir. 1983) (citações omitidas).

[21] Vide Manne, G. & B. Sperry, Debunking the Myth of a Data Barrier to Entry for Online Services. Truth on the Market (26/03/2015), disponível em: https://truthonthemarket.com/2015/03/26/debunking-the-myth-of-a-data-barrier-to-entry-for-online-services; Manne, G. & B. Sperry (2014). The Law and Economics of Data and Privacy in Antitrust Analysis, 2014 TPRC Conference Paper, disponível em: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2418779.

[22] Vide geralmente, Grunes, A. & M. Stucke (2016). Big Data and Competition Policy. Oxford University Press, Oxford; Newman, N. (2014). Antitrust and the Economics of the Control of User Data. Yale Journal on Regulation, 30:3.

[23] Vide os exemplos discutidos em Manne, G. & B. Sperry, Debunking the Myth of a Data Barrier to Entry for Online Services. Truth on the Market (26 Março 2015), disponível em: https://truthonthemarket.com/2015/03/26/debunking-the-myth-of-a-data-barrier-to-entry-for-online-services.

[24] Lerner, A. (2014). The Role of ‘Big Data’ in Online Platform Competition, disponível em: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2482780.

 

 

[25] Bowman, S. & G. Manne, Platform Self-Preferencing can be Good for Consumers and even Competitors, Truth on the Market (4 Março 2021), disponível em: https://truthonthemarket.com/2021/03/04/platform-self-preferencing-can-be-good-for-consumers-and-even-competitors.

[26] C. Goujard, Google forced to postpone Bard chatbot’s EU launch over privacy concerns, Politico (13 Junho 2023), disponível em: https://www.politico.eu/article/google-postpone-bard-chatbot-eu-launch-privacy-concern.

[27] M. Kelly, Here ‘s why Threads is delayed in Europe, The Verge (10 Julho 2023), disponível em: https://www.theverge.com/23789754/threads-meta-twitter-eu-dma-digital-markets.

[28] Musk considers removing X platform from Europe over EU law, Euractiv (19 Outubro 2023), disponível em: https://www.euractiv.com/section/platforms/news/musk-considers-removing-x-platform-from-europe-over-eu-law.

[29] Jud, M. Still no Copilot in Europe: Microsoft Rolls out 23H2 Update, Digitec.ch (10 Novembro 2023), disponível em: https://www.digitec.ch/en/page/still-no-windows-copilot-in-europe-microsoft-rolls-out-23h2-update-30279.

[30] The Future is Bright for Latin American Startups, The Economist (13 Novembro 2023), disponível em: https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2023/11/13/the-future-is-bright-for-latin-american-startups.

[31] Vide Distrito (2023), Panorama Tech América Latina, disponível em: https://static.poder360.com.br/2023/09/latam-report-1.pdf.

[32] O seguinte é adaptado do processo Manne, G., Against the vertical discrimination presumption (Maio 2020), Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267, https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword e nossos comentários sobre a proposta de Projeto de Lei de Mercados Digitais, Concorrência e Consumidores do Reino Unido (“DMCC”): Auer, D., M. Lesh & L. Radic (2023). Digital Overload: How the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill ‘s sweeping new powers threaten Britain’ s economy, IEA Perspectives 4, 16-21, disponível em: https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Perspectives_4_Digital-overload_web.pdf.

[33] H. Singer, How Big Tech Threatens Economic Liberty, The Am. Conserv. (7 Maio 2019), https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-big-tech-threatens-economic-liberty.

[34] A maioria dessas teorias, deve-se notar, ignora a literatura de estratégia relevante e abundante sobre a complexidade da dinâmica da plataforma. Vide, por exemplo, J. M. Barnett, The Host ‘s Dilemma: Strategic Forfeiture in Platform Markets for Informational Goods, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 1861 (2011); D. J. Teece, Profiting from technological innovation: Implications for integration, collaboration, licensing and public policy, 15 Res. Pol’y 285 (1986); A. Hagiu & K. Boudreau, Platform Rules: Multi-Sided Platforms as Regulators, in Platforms, Markets and Innovation, A. Gawer, ed. (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009); K. Boudreau, Open Platform Strategies and Innovation: Granting Access vs. Devolving Control, 56 Mgmt. Sci. 1849 (2010).

[35] Para exemplos desta literatura e uma breve discussão de suas descobertas, vide Manne, G., Against the vertical discrimination presumption, maio de 2020, Concurrences N° 2-2020, Art. N° 94267, https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-2-2020/editorial/foreword.

[36] International Center for Law & Economics (2022). International Center for Law & Economics Amicus Curiae Brief submetido ao Tribunal Federal de Recursos da Nona Circunscrição 20-21. https://tinyurl.com/ywu553vb.

[37] Vide, em geral, Hagiu & Boudreau, Platform Rules: Multi-Sided Platforms as Regulators, supra note 31; Barnett, The Host’s Dilemma, supra note 31.

[38] Barnett, J., id.

[39] Vide Radic, L. and G. Manne (2022) Amazon Italy’s Efficiency Offense. Truth on the Market (11 Janeiro 2022), https://tinyurl.com/2uht4fvw.

[40] Apresentado como Projeto de Lei 294 (2022-23), atualmente Projeto de Lei HL 12 (2023-24), Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, disponível em https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3453.

[41] Farrell, J., & P. Klemperer (2007). Coordination and Lock-In: Competition with Switching Costs and Network Effects, Handbook of Industrial Organization 3, 1967-2072, disponível em https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1573448X06030317.

[42] Projeto de Lei 2768, “Justificativas”. Vide também Wu, T. (2018). The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Columbia Global Reports.

[43] Colangelo, G. (2022). The Digital Markets Act and EU Antitrust Enforcement: Double & Triple Jeopardy, ICLE White Paper 2022-03-23, disponível em https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Giuseppe-Double-triple-jeopardy-final-draft-20220225.pdf.

[44] Vide também Caffarra, C. e F. Scott Morton, The European Commission Digital Markets Act: A Translation, Vox EU (5 Janeiro 2021), disponível em: https://voxeu.org/article/european-commission-digital-markets-act-translation.

[45] How National Competition Agencies Can Strengthen the DMA, European Competition Network (22 Junho 2021), disponível em: https://ec.europa.eu/competition/ecn/DMA_joint_EU_NCAs_paper_21.06.2021.pdf.

[46] Para ver estudo completo, consulte https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/documentos-de-trabalho/2018/documento-de-trabalho-n01-2018-efeitos-concorrenciais-da-economia-do-compartilhamento-no-brasil-a-entrada-da-uber-afetou-o-mercado-de-aplicativos-de-taxi-entre-2014-e-2016.pdf.

[47] Para uma visão detalhada das decisões do CADE sobre plataformas digitais e serviços de pagamentos, acesse: https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/mercado-de-instrumentos-de-pagamento-2019.pdf; https://cdn.cade.gov.br/Portal/centrais-de-conteudo/publicacoes/estudos-economicos/cadernos-do-cade/Caderno_Plataformas-Digitais_Atualizado_29.08.pdf.

[48] Vide, por exemplo, Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. 20-cv-05640-YGR.

[49] Staats, J. L., & G. Biglaiser (2012). Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America: The Importance of Judicial Strength and Rule of Law. International Studies Quarterly, 56(1), 193–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00690.x.

 

[50] HL Bill 12 (2023-24), Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, disponível em https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3453.

[51] Auer, D., M. Lesh, & L. Radic (2023). Digital Overload: How the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill’s sweeping new powers threaten Britain’s economy, IEA Perspectives 4, 16-21, disponível em: https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Perspectives_4_Digital-overload_web.pdf.

[52] Vide Dailey, M. Why the US. Rejected European Style Digital Markets Regulation: Considerations for Brazil’s Tech Landscape, Progressive Policy Institute (2 Outubro 2023), pp 5-6, disponível em: https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/PPI-Brazil-EU-Tech.pdf.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Vide Radic, L. and G. Manne (2022) Amazon Italy’s Efficiency Offense. Truth on the Market (11 Janeiro 2022), disponível em https://tinyurl.com/2uht4fvw.

[55] ACCC, Digital Platform Services Inquiry, Discussion Paper for Interim Report No. 5: Updating competition and consumer law for digital platform services (Fevereiro 2022), disponível em https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital%20platform%20services%20inquiry.pdf.

[56] Bowman, S. & G. Manne, Platform Self-Preferencing Can Be Good for Consumers and Even Competitors, Truth on the Market (4 Março 2021), disponível em: https://laweconcenter.wpengine.com/2021/03/04/platform-self-preferencing-can-be-good-for-consumers-and-even-competitors.

[57] Vide Portuese, A. The Digital Markets Act: A Triumph of Regulation Over Innovation, ITIF Schumpeter Project (2 Agosto 2022), disponível em: https://itif.org/publications/2022/08/24/digital-markets-act-a-triumph-of-regulation-over-innovation.

 

[58] Auer, D., G. Manne & S. Bowman (2022). Should ASEAN Antitrust Laws Emulate European Competition Policy?. Singapore Economic Review 67(5) 1637–1697, 1687.

[59]Vide Lotz, A. ‘Big Tech’ isn’t a monolith. It’s 5 companies, all in different businesses, Houston Chronicle (26 Março 2018), disponível em: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/techburger/article/Big-Tech-isn-t-a-monolith-It-s-5-companies-12781761.php; vide também Chaiehloudj, W. & Petit, N. On Big Tech and The Digital Economy, Competition Forum (11 Janeiro 2021), disponível em: https://competition-forum.com/on-big-tech-and-the-digital-economy-interview-with-professor-nicolas-petit.

[60] Asher Hamilton, I. Tim Cook says he’s tired of big tech being painted as a ‘monolithic’ force that needs tearing apart, Business Insider (7 Maio 2019), disponível em: https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-tired-of-big-tech-being-viewed-as-monolithic-2019-5.

[61] Lotz, A. ‘Big Tech’ isn’t a monolith. It’s 5 companies, all in different businesses, Houston Chronicle (26 Março 2018), disponível em: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/techburger/article/Big-Tech-isn-t-a-monolith-It-s-5-companies-12781761.php.

[62] G. Cuofano, Amazon Revenue Breakdown, Four Week MBA (10 Agosto 2023), disponível em: https://fourweekmba.com/amazon-revenue-breakdown.

[63] International Center for Law and Economics (2022). International Center for Law & Economics Amicus Curiae Brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, https://laweconcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/ICLE-Amicus-Apple-v-Epic-SCt-10.27.23-FINAL.pdf.

[64] See Zúñiga, M. Latin America Should Follow Its Own Path on Digital-Markets Competition, Truth on the Market (7 Novembro 2023) disponível em: https://truthonthemarket.com/2023/11/07/latin-america-should-follow-its-own-path-on-digital-markets-competition.

[65] No entanto, como apontado na Pergunta 10, há um risco de bis in idem, considerando que algumas das condutas capturadas pelo Projeto de Lei 2768 também podem estar cobertas pela lei de concorrência brasileira. Nesses casos, os 2% seriam agravados pelas penalidades previstas na Lei 12.529/11, a lei de concorrência brasileira, e o nível poderia facilmente ser muito alto.

[66] Weekly Foreign Policy Report No. 1329: A Europe vassal to the US?, Política Exterior (26 Junho 2023) https://www.politicaexterior.com/articulo/una-europa-vasalla-de-eeuu.

[67] Vide, por exemplo, 100 Biggest Technology Companies in the World, Yahoo Finance (23 Agosto 2023), disponível em: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/100-biggest-technology-companies-world-175211230.html.

[68] Vide, por exemplo, Weekly Foreign Policy Report No. 1329: A Europe vassal to the US?, Política Exterior (26 Junho 2023) https://www.politicaexterior.com/articulo/una-europa-vasalla-de-eeuu.

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