The Antitrust “Challenge” of Digital Platforms: How a Fixation on Size Threatens Productivity and Innovation

Abstract

Over the last several years, much of the debate on antitrust policy has focused on the largest digital platforms, including, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Each of these companies is large, has some signifcant market share in their narrowly defined industry, and most derive much of their revenues from running one or more multisided platforms. These factors have generated a backlash by anti-big firm activists and consternation among many European and U.S. competition policy offcials. However, a careful review of both the individual markets and the general issues reveals that the challenges these companies pose, while slightly different from previous markets, are not entirely new. Moreover, in most cases legitimate competition policy issues, especially those related to structure, are limited and can be effectively addressed within the confnes of existing antitrust law and jurisprudence.

This essay appears in the first of two volumes on The Evolution of Antitrust in the Digital Era, published by Competition Policy International to reflect the state of the art of antitrust thinking in digital markets in jurisdictions around the world. The volume addresses many issues: the role of innovation, the conundrum of big data, the evolution of media markets, and the question of whether existing antitrust tools are sufficient to deal with the challenges of digital markets. Each author tackles the overarching themes from their unique national perspective. The resulting tapestry reflects the challenges and opportunities presented by the modern digital era, viewed through the lens of competition enforcement.