“Create an account. It’s free and always will be.” Facebook homepage “Things which cost nothing are those which cost the most. (…) [T]hey cost us the effort of understanding that they are free.” Cesare Pavese, Il mestiere di vivere I. Introduction 1. On February 1, 2018, following an in-depth investigation, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) gave unconditional clearance to the acquisition of the French company Logic-Immo by the German group Axel Springer.  Axel Springer group (via its French subsidiary SeLoger) and Logic-Immo both manage online real estate ad portals that allow real estate agencies to display their ads to potential buyers and renters in France. 2. For the first time ever, the FCA thoroughly assessed the functioning of online platforms with regard to the risk of
The purpose of this article is to share the lessons learned by the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) following its first in-depth investigation of a merger case involving two major online platforms. The FCA believes that anti-competitive risks arising out of Internet platform mergers must be carefully assessed through a case-by-case analysis accompanied by a large body of evidence, in order to conduct a proper investigation. Examples of evidence used in this case include a focus on the typology of platforms, the type of services they provide, their sources of revenue, and the behavior of their users on each side of the market. Questions concerning potential competitive pressure, especially from super-platforms, in addition to potential barriers to expansion, were also at the core of the analysis. The competitive assessment focused on specific risks posed by this kind of merger, such as the impact of a change of scale and of data collection on the remaining effective competition in the market. The FCA has laid the first stone in developing an innovative approach that can be used in the future to assess mergers in the digital economy.
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