State aid spotlight on tax: the General Court’s judgments on Fiat and Starbucks

In 2015, the European Commission ordered Starbucks and Fiat to each pay €20m–€30m in the Netherlands and Luxembourg, respectively, as their tax arrangements were found to constitute illegal state aid. On 24 September 2019, the General Court upheld the Commission’s Fiat decision, but annulled the Starbucks decision. What were the key economic issues in these cases, and what are the implications of the judgments?

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Will tech giants take over payments?

The Chinese payments industry has recently experienced significant disruptions from technology companies Alipay and WeChat. Although consumer preferences and the regulatory environment have played an important part in the success of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China, many factors are also applicable in the European context. With technology companies now evaluating opportunities in the European payments market (most recently, Facebook’s Libra), what can the Chinese example tell us about its likely evolution?

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Death of an old star…evolution of a new one?

‘Superstar firms’ are increasingly dominating markets. Network effects may consolidate the position of these firms, but they can also help new entrants to undermine them. In some markets, network effects will both dampen competition ‘within’ the market and spur competition ‘for’ the market. Francesca Arduini, Oxera Analyst, argues that we can employ the framework of evolutionary game theory to derive four key policy insights into this topic

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Why we need to consider holistic consumer outcomes

As government policy, regulation and competition law all aim to make a positive difference for consumers, it is crucial to have a common understanding of what constitutes a consumer benefit. To date, consumer outcomes have been considered mainly in terms of price, quantity, quality, innovation and choice. However, Tim Hogg, Oxera Consultant, argues that advances in technology mean that authorities should consider an additional set of holistic consumer outcomes, including relationships, fairness, truth, and privacy

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It’s what you know about who you know: market power in digital platforms

In the digital services market, platform operators compete for the attention of consumers. However, there are increasing concerns about their degree of market power, which can be difficult to assess using the traditional tools of competition and regulation. As calls for further regulation increase, authorities must ensure that their interventions do not lead to unintended consequences, such as reducing the gains that such platforms bring to society

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Consumer data in online markets

Businesses increasingly use consumer data to offer better and more targeted digital products and services. Many of these new business models rely on data to facilitate transactions and generate revenues in a way that was not previously possible. Access to personal data has understandably raised concerns about privacy. Based on a study commissioned by Which?, we investigate the delicate balance between privacy and the value of digital services

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Sharing too much? Information exchange in the digital economy

Is an excess of information hurting competition? Although there are some well-established, economically founded principles for assessing the exchange of information between competitors, the general increase in information availability in the digital economy presents new challenges. We revisit the economic principles that can be used to understand the likely effects, both beneficial and malign, of information sharing, and how competition authorities could react to these trends

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Discrimination or differentiation? Price discrimination as an abuse of dominance

When does price discrimination by a dominant firm amount to an abuse? Is the mere existence of a price difference sufficient? A recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) provides some guidance on these questions, highlighting the ability to distort competition as a key criterion for a finding of abuse. Taking an economic perspective, we look at the CJEU’s approach and consider the implications for other cases of discrimination more broadly

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Regulation 2018: ‘back to basics’

The UK is experiencing a backlash against the liberal orthodoxy of utility regulation of ten years ago, which was based on privatisation, competition and deregulation. A recent Agenda article on the legitimacy of sectoral regulation in the UK asked ‘Is it policy, ownership, industry structure, governance, financing or regulation that is driving the problem?’ Martin Cave, Visiting Professor, London School of Economics, provides his perspective

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Legitimacy and renationalisation: where next for utility regulation?

UK regulated utilities are facing the tightest scrutiny that they have experienced in years. A tit-for-tat battle between the two main political parties in proposing changes to address public concerns has culminated in the Labour Party proposing renationalisation and the Conservative Party greater regulatory supervision. So what is the regulatory outlook for customers, companies and their investors in the context of the renationalisation agenda and other recent developments?

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