On 28 March 2018 the European Commission announced the appointment of three Special Advisers to European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, to assist in responding to the future challenges for competition policy arising from digitisation. The Special Advisers, who take up their role for the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, are Professor Heike Schweitzer, Professor Jacques Crémer and Assistant Professor Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye. As market and consumer behaviour adapts to key digital changes, the Commission is gathering input on what the implications are likely to be for competition policy. The new team (which will act independently of business interests and will neither have access to confidential information concerning competition cases, nor advise on individual decisions, legal initiatives or concrete policy objectives), will be delivering a report on the future digitisation challenges by 31 March 2019. The Commission will also be holding an open conference on 17 January 2019 to discuss this topic further.
Professor Heike Schweitzer teaches Law at Humboldt University of Berlin, specialising in European economic law and competition law. Professor Jacques Crémer teaches Economics at the Toulouse School of Economics. His research interests include the economics of the internet and of software industries. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye is an Assistant Professor of Data Science at Imperial College London. His research interests focus on human behavioural impacts on the privacy of individuals in large-scale datasets as well as computational privacy and the implications of artificial intelligence.
These new appointments were announced the day after the Commission’s in-house think tank – the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) - published a ‘Strategic Notes’ report on how Commission policy may have to be altered to respond to developments in artificial intelligence (AI). The EPSC1 noted that strong competition “reduces the ability of suppliers to glean value from customers through algorithmicempowered discrimination”. According to the think tank there is a need for antitrust enforcement to accelerate, while “antitrust tools must be refined to stop AI from being used by companies to break the law, for example by coordinating prices”. In relation to merger control, the EPSC considers that the implications of a reduction in market competition should be taken into account, which “might allow merged companies to use AI technologies to discriminate against their users or elicit them to hand over more personal data to access their services”. Further, the EPSC considers it important that merger control be fine-tuned to capture those acquisitions which today escape the authorities’ review because they are below notification thresholds but may have a significant impact on competition in the future.
At the UK national level, the CMA has also announced in its annual plan (see above) that it is expanding its digital analysis capabilities and establishing a new digital, data and technology team to ensure it can respond rapidly to developments including the use of algorithms and AI.