Competition policy issues are now more prominent in the public debate than at any point in decades. The growing market power of giant digital platforms, whose products and services touch all aspects of our lives, raise concerns about privacy and data protection, exploitation of consumers and small businesses, and foreclosure of smaller rivals. Increasing automation and data-motivated decisionmaking raise the possibility of algorithmic collusion. Acquisitions of start-ups before they reach profitability by gatekeeper platforms and rising merger activity in key industries such as pharmaceutical and telecom have led to warnings about “killer acquisitions” and the impact these deals have on prices, product variety, innovation, and infrastructure security. Moreover, the rise of investing giants like Blackrock, Vanguard, and Fidelity, and consequent increase in common ownership of leading firms across industries raises concerns about economy-wide softening of competitive intensity, with associated reductions in innovation and business dynamism.
Academic research increasingly suggests that margins and concentration have been rising across the economy for over 40 years. While there is debate about the sources and consequences of these trends, there is a growing realisation that there has been underenforcement of competition law with respect to both merger control and abuse of dominant market positions. This has led to multiple initiatives for regulatory interventions in digital markets across Europe (in both the UK and EU), while in the US there is momentum building for the first major reform to competition law in 50 years. Much remains to be done, including agreeing on guiding principles, specific rules, and implementation mechanisms, both in digital markets and beyond.
The purpose of the CEPR Competition Policy RPN is to become a leading platform for the critical discussion of competition policy design and outcomes. This is particularly important in an adversarial context like competition enforcement, where parties with “skin in the game” seek to shape the public debate by sponsoring research favorable to their point of view. The RPN seeks to create a network of academics and enforcers to evaluate both influential decisions and academic research, and generate practical guidance to promote better policymaking as well as more policy-relevant academic research. Transparency in these discussions is important, and the RPN has a strict disclosure policy for all participants in RPN events (see below).
The director of the Competition Policy RPN is Gregory S. Crawford, Professor of Economics at the University of Zurich and former co-director of the CEPR Industrial Organization programme. It is supported by a steering committee consisting of Crawford (Chair), Cristina Caffarra (Vice-Chair), of Charles River Associates in London and Brussels, Tomaso Duso, Professor of Economics at DIW Berlin and TU Berlin and member of the Board of Directors and spokesperson for the Berlin Centre for Competition Policies (BCCP), and Monika Schnitzer, Chair (Professor) in Comparative Economics at LMU Munich and member of the German Council of Economic Experts.
The primary activity of the RPN is to organize workshops and conferences that bring together leading academics, enforcers, and policymakers to discuss topical policy questions in antitrust and regulation. It aims to create a bridge between the enforcers and policymakers facing practical policy questions and the academics with an interest in these questions, as well as to distill practical lessons from academic research that is useful for the former. The RPN hosts two types of events. The first type (“bottom-up”) brings together academics, practicing economists, and regulators to discuss the current thinking on specific topics of high contemporary policy interest (e.g. self-preferencing, potential competition, etc.). The second (“top-down”) brings to the table those shaping and implementing the competition policy agenda worldwide, including heads of competition agencies, politicians, and other thought leaders in the competition policy space. In the first type of event, both relevant casework and academic papers on the chosen topic are presented and discussed in a format accessible to a policy audience. The insights from these events are distilled into a CEPR Policy Brief, written by selected RPN members and academics with expertise in the subject, that synthesizes what is known on a topic, what remains to be discovered, and what are possible policy options to address the competition concerns identified. Points of consensus and points of disagreement are specifically identified. Policy Briefs are meant to foster better policymaking and are written to appeal to as broad a policy audience as possible.
A list of members can be found here.
- June 17 20201: Privacy & Antitrust: "integration", not just "Intersection. Further details on the event can be found here. To register please go here.
- To see a complete list of all Competition Policy RPN events, please go here.
- June 2021: Turning competition research into competition policy. Click here to hear the VoxTalk with Greg Crawford and Cristina Caffarra.
- To see a complete list of all Competition Policy RPN output, please go here.
- To see the Competition Policy RPN's disclosure policies, please go here.