Electronic platforms and competition law

Law & Economics workshop organised by Concurrences Review with Brice Allibert (DG COMP), Etienne Pfister (Autorité de la concurrence), in partnership Allen & Overy and Cornerstone Research.

Florence Ninane

In France, the Consumer Code defines an electronic platform as any person who, in a professional capacity, whether remunerated or not, offers a communication service to the public that is based either on the classification or referencing, by means of algorithms, of content put online by a third party, or on bringing together several parties with a view to sale, exchange or sharing. This broad definition covers a wide range of platform models: web giants and smaller companies, national and regional models, free models based on advertising and paid or "freemium" models (with a free basic service and a paid enriched service), etc. The definition of "freemium" is not exhaustive. There are transactional platforms and user group matching platforms. However, competitive analysis may vary according to the different platform models.

Electronic platforms have many special features. They develop in two-sided or multi-sided markets where user groups have different interests and business models, which makes the definition of the relevant market more complex and creates direct (between users within the same group) and indirect (between groups of users) network effects. Their numerical characteristic adds technical complexity. Their markets evolve very rapidly, which competition law must take into account, for example, when implementing remedies. Most platforms offer a free service on at least one side: price, the traditional element of competition analysis, is no longer necessarily the central factor and can be replaced by non-monetary factors. The lower turnover of a platform may become irrelevant, for example when that platform holds valuable data.

Photos © Léo-Paul Ridet

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