An article by Tim Cowen, chair of the Antitrust practice at Preiskel & Co, has been published in the International Institute of Communication's March 2023 InterMedia issue. The article discusses the way in which authorities around the world have been addressing dominance within digital markets. The key areas of focus centred around the following items:
- Industry challenges: the complexity surrounding the technology and the role of data has meant that Big Tech companies were able to quickly entrench their market power by developing algorithms that extrapolate user data in the most profitable way and capitalising on their 'network effects'. Authorities have been reporting regularly on this, but have also been playing catch up.
- Data as a 'commons': basic web data is being compromised by Big Tech companies implementing changes masked as 'privacy changes' (also known as 'privacy washing').
- Traditional method of market definition no longer fit for purpose: assessing the market from the consumer perspective does not work when the consumer is offered a zero price and bespoke service. It should be recognised that for the platforms, users are sources of data to be monetised; the true consumers are the advertisers who pay Big Tech companies for their services.
- Supply-side substitution becoming more and more relevant: when it is appreciated that supply side factors and the data gathered about the use of products over platforms is central to the assessment of dominance and definition of markets, it can also be appreciated that authorities cannot hope to understand these markets on a case-by-case basis, gathering evidence as they go. They need to become experts.
- Competition in digital advertising is compromised: in 2022, acting on a complaint from the Movement for an Open Web, the Competition and Markets Authority stopped Google making browser changes that would have blocked web data availability to competitors in the digital advertising industry.
- App Store model is harmful to consumers and developers: Big Tech platforms' dominance has allowed them to impose unfair terms on developers. Cases are being run, notably, by Epic and Spotify.
The full article can be accessed with an IIC login at DOMINANCE IN DIGITAL MARKETS – International Institute of Communications (iicom.org)
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