18 Jun 2015

18-19 June 2015, University of East Anglia, Norwich

The Centre for Competition Policy’s 11th Annual Conference took place on the 18 – 19 June and this year focused on Competition in the Digital Age – a timely topic given the attention digital markets have recently received.

Opened by Centre Director  and co-organiser , the conference explored the fascinating developments and unresolved competition issues that the digital economy has thrown up, including consumer search, information collection, information processing, comparison websites, internet platforms, privacy, consent, trust and evidence, approached from several different disciplines including computer science, economics, law and politics.

Conference 2015 Session Blogs

Session Reviews

Session 1: Setting the Scene

 from the University of Bologna started the proceedings by discussing the effect on society of the large amounts of data generated by the internet. In his presentation he outlined how data is gathered on all our digital consumption; how data has become a virtual currency, turning the consumer also into the product; and how human behaviour and decisions are increasingly influenced by this data. UEA Law School’s  went on to questions of privacy and autonomy of the individual in the digital economy, and explored how profiling and ‘personlisation’ impacts on our data privacy. Using examples of shopping and behavioural advertising, he showed how people are unaware of the potential risks in the use of their data.  from the CMA rounded off the session by looking at the way comparison websites have revolutionised the consumer’s experience, and at the recent cases involving Most Favoured Nation clauses.


Danilo Montesi, University of Bologna, Italy: "Big Data & Social Science: A Data Driven Society"

Paul Bernal, University of East Anglia: 

Tony Curzon-Price, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA): "Price Comparison Websites: The Frenemies of Competition"

Session 2: E-discovery: The Challenge to Enforcement

 from Howard University, Washington DC began the second session of the day. He debated the challenges to competition enforcement created by on the one hand advances in technology, especially computers and information storage systems; and on the other hand the raising of the bar in terms of economic analysis and burden of proof, and its attendant costs, that the availability of this information produces. From the London School of Economics and Political Science, in her presentation “Predatory Privacy: Testing the Limits of Economic Analysis” questioned where competition law can protect privacy, and whether competition law can enhance and complement data protection.


Andy Gavil, Howard University, Washington DC, USA: “Litigating with Terabytes: The Challenges for Competition Enforcers and Courts”

Orla Lynskey, London School of Economics and Political Science: “Predatory Privacy: Testing the Limits of Economic Analysis”

Session 3: Platforms and Price Relationships

The final session of the day saw  from University of Michigan shed light on recent cases involving platform intermediaries, for example hotel booking and price comparison websites, by disentangling the various effects of best price clauses offered by those platforms. Whilst Indiana University’s  provided empirical evidence of the impact of such vertical price restraints in the market for e-books.


Kai-Uwe Kühn University of Michigan, USA: “Best Price Clauses Set by Platform Intermediaries: Disentangling the Effects”

Matthijs R. Wildenbeest, Indiana University, USA: “E-book Pricing and Vertical Restraints”

Session 4: Trust in Digital Markets

CEO of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)  opened day two with his presentation on “Data and Trust Concerns in Digital Markets: What are the Concerns for Competition and for Consumers?”, a transcript of which is available to download from the  Ofcom’s  followed, covering the economics of personal data and data privacy, the practical issues with informed consent in an on-line world, and the potential implications for Ofcom’s work on the ‘Internet of things.’  completed the first session by considering how the existence of contracts between firms and intermediaries affect on the one hand the quality of advice received by consumers and, on the other hand, firms’ incentives to invest in improving the quality of their products.


Alex Chisholm, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA): 

Jonathan Porter, Ofcom: “Economic Issues Around Data Privacy and Data Sharing in the Context of the Internet of Things”

Greg Taylor, Oxford Internet Institute: “Quality Provision in the Presence of a Biased Intermediary”

Session 5: New Products – New Regulation

Session 5 on New Products and New Regulation saw CCP’s  and  discuss the fast growing market of mobile applications, and creativity and copying in the digital age respectively. From the School of Economics, Franco Mariuzzo proposed that strategic versioning is profitable for application developers because they will be able to use it to attract new customers, leading to continuous growth of downloads, whilst John Street from UEA’s School of Politics, Philosophy Language and Communication Studies discussed the politics of the music industry and how its increasing use of digitisation results in an expanding fight between streaming companies and record companies.


Franco Mariuzzo, Centre for Competition Policy, UEA: “Versioning in Mobile Apps”

John Street, Centre for Competition Policy, UEA: “Creative Copying: Law, Politics and Originality in a Digital World”

Session 6: The Value of Information

The conference was brought to a close by  from the University of California, Berkeley and London School of Economics’ . Steve Tadelis talked about the challenges faced by market platforms in the presence of reputational externalities and biased feedback, and explored the limits of reputation mechanisms, their impacts on the marketplace, and ways in which a platform designer can mitigate these adverse impacts. Finally, Nick Anstead presented a paper that addresses a number of questions raised by the development of data-driven campaigning techniques. He revealed the source of the datasets used by political parties and highlighted the reasons for the adoption of new methods which, he noted, could have an effect on citizen participation and the quality of democracy.


Steve Tadelis, University of California Berkeley, USA: “The Limits of Reputation in Platform Markets: An Empirical Analysis and Field Experiment”

Nick Anstead, London School of Economics and Political Science: “Data-driven Campaigning: Data, Elections and Democracy”

Conclusion & Closing Remarks

With closing remarks from organisers Morten Hviid and Franco Mariuzzo, this year’s CCP Annual Conference created much debate and discussion on the way the digital economy has evolved, and highlighted how Government and Enforcement Agencies now face a number of challenges in deciding how and when to intervene. The two days of presentations amply demonstrated that the challenges are big, both because of the speed with which the agenda and the technology move on and because a “once-size-fit-all” approach looks unlikely to be appropriate.

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