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Nick Dadson, Iain Snoddy and Joshua White

‘Big data’ and ‘big tech’ have become central topics in recent antitrust debate and regulation. For example, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently published a report on online platforms, expressing concerns that the major platforms like Google are now protected from competition by such strong incumbency advantages. Underlying the CMA's theory of harm is the essential facility theory of antitrust, under which Google's ability to control access to its click-and-query data is seen as preventing its rivals from competing effectively. EU jurisprudence has identified three criteria to determine whether data are an essential facility and whether access should be mandated. First, the data must be indispensable to compete in the market. Secondly, absent data sharing, technical improvements by competitors must be hampered or precluded. Thirdly, there must be no objective justification to refuse competitors access to the data. It is difficult to reconcile the authorities’ concerns with Google's click-and-query data with these criteria, however. Actual and potential alternatives exist; Google's competitors have been innovating in the search market for more than a decade; and there are objective reasons to limit data access, including threats to innovation and privacy concerns.

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Ambroise Descamps, Timo Klein and Gareth Shier

In the modern economy, algorithms influence many aspects of our lives, from how much we pay for groceries and what adverts we see, to the decisions taken by health professionals. As is true with all new technologies, algorithms bring new economic opportunities and make our lives easier, but they also bring new challenges. Indeed, many competition authorities have voiced their concerns that under certain circumstances algorithms may harm consumers, lead to exclusion of some competitors and may even enable firms (knowingly or otherwise) to avoid competitive pressure and collude. In this article, we explain how algorithms work and what potential benefits and harms they bring to competition.

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Sebastiaan Wijsman and Christophe Crombez

This paper studies the effects of fiscal rules on public investment. Economists argue that fiscal rules decrease public investment, as it is easier for governments to lower public investment than current expenditures. This paper presents an empirical assessment of the relationship between fiscal rules and public investment using European panel data covering the 1997–2016 period. In contrast to previous work, we focus on national fiscal rules and use the European Commission's Fiscal Rules Strength Index to measure the constraints imposed on public finances. This index captures 230 national fiscal rules and reflects the annual strength of fiscal rules in each European Union member state. In line with our expectations, we find that fiscal rules decrease public investment. We run some additional models in which the results are mixed.

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Ina Esser, Chris Whitcombe and Robert Ryan

Economics plays a central role in effective merger enforcement, as it provides the conceptual framework to assess merger effects. Additionally, effective merger enforcement relies on the merger assessment being firmly rooted in evidence. Economic analysis is often key in interpreting this evidence. This article discusses the role of economists and economic analysis in merger investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority, in particular in relation to the approach to economic analysis and evidence gathering, and the wider contribution of economists at the CMA in developing the toolkit used for assessing mergers.

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Gavin Bushell and Emma Whyte

Since 1 January 2021, the ‘one-stop shop’ principle under the EU Merger Regulation (EUMR) no longer applies to the UK, and UK turnover is no longer relevant for determining whether a merger satisfies the EUMR jurisdictional thresholds. Merger control analysis will now need to factor in possible interactions with both the European Commission (Commission) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The two regimes have different procedures, timelines and substantive tests, which will impact on deal planning and strategy. Dual reviews by both authorities will likely lead to an additional burden on merging parties as well as a risk of a deal being cleared by the Commission but blocked by the CMA, or vice-versa. This article assesses the procedural and practical implications of these changes and highlights some of the key risks businesses may face in merger control looking ahead.