With the New Year only a few days old, we want to present a short outlook what to expect from European antitrust enforcement in 2018, with a particular focus on Germany. One theme that is likely to feature even more than last year is the impact of antitrust law on digital markets. Antitrust law has become a force for disruption in the world of tech. Multi-billion fines for online platforms which are considered not to be sufficiently neutral. Dawn raids for denied access to data. Transactions blocked or unwound if a unicorn is acquired by the wrong player.
On 6 October, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) launched its new series of papers on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the Digital Economy”. The first paper deals with “Big Data and Competition”. The same day, a “real-life example” of competition enforcement in Big Data became public. The EU Commission confirmed unannounced inspections in “a few
Will Germany establish a “Digital Agency” to monitor compliance with competition law rules in digital markets? Will a German “Digital Antitrust Enforcer” become a role model for a European protectionist approach against American and Asian platform providers?
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy seems to see a pressing need for regulation in digital markets. The White Paper “Digital Platforms”, published on the 20 March 2017, provides an outlook on possible forms of digital regulatory policy in Germany and potentially also in Europe. Of particular interest from a competition law perspective is the proposal to establish a new “Digital Agency”.
The German competition authority (Bundeskartellamt) published this week new guidelines for the calculation of fines for antitrust infringements, which will be applicable with immediate effect. These changes introduce less predictability and potentially larger fines for antitrust infringement in Germany.