European competition authorities are trying to keep up with the latest technological developments in terms of their impact on traditional competition law.
The French Competition Authority ("FCA"), in conjunction with the German Competition Authority ("GCA"), conducted an analysis of the competition implications and challenges linked to personal and quasi-personal data collection by private companies. The findings of this joint paper were published on 10 May 2016, just a few months after the GCA had initiated proceedings against Facebook, one of the largest players of the industry.
The paper highlighted the necessity to do further case-specific assessments in order to evaluate the links between the ownership of large quantities of personal and quasi-personal data on the one hand, and market power on the other. In particular, it found that it was especially important to determine how large the databases in question were and how easily they could be replicated by a competitor.
Less than two weeks later, on 23 May 2016, the FCA decided on its own initiative to open an investigation focusing on the fast growing online advertising industry. Thissector is a heavy consumer of data, as advertisers strive to sell evermore targeted advertisements.
The findings of this investigation could have important repercussions on later cases involving the sector, since the FCA has set itself the goal of: (1) defining the relevant markets; (2) identifying possible dominant positions and market power; and (3) studying the business practices of market players and the conditions for access to data.
Publication of the final report of the FCA is expected in 2017 after an extended public consultation on the subject.