Taking the Competition Law Conversation Online

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 4th June 2020

Graphic of competition law discussions, depicts grass roots activism, people taking on big tech robots towering above

Today, DFF successfully wrapped up its first wholly virtual event, which focused on competition law. Participants around the world joined us to workshop case ideas around self-preferencing and actions involving data.

In December last year, DFF organised a 1.5 day training in Brussels to explore how digital rights litigators could harness the competition law framework to further their work on issues such as data protection and freedom of expression. The meeting, with participants from Europe, the US and Latin America, was organised in response to direct requests from our network to provide more opportunities for knowledge and skill building in this area.

The December training was not only an opportunity to learn and exchange experiences using the competition law framework to advance digital rights, it also helped identify topics that participants wanted to further work on and explore potential cases on.

We were very much looking forward to doing this deeper dive in person and were planning a 2-day meeting in Berlin when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe. With no clear view as to when or if in-person meetings would be possible in the short term, we decided to move online to workshop case ideas around self-preferencing and actions involving data, as our network had requested.

Day #1 Visualisation

This in and of itself was a great learning experience: how do you create an online event that allows participants to get similar learnings and interactions as from a two-day meeting, while keeping “Zoom fatigue” at bay? We ended up running two sessions of 2.5 hours each in the course of an afternoon and morning.

Ahead of the workshop, we made a number of online resources available, including a set of one-pagers and videos focusing on competition law issues relevant to the workshop. 

Besides the obvious lessons (re)learned –– for example, that introduction rounds always run over, and especially online! –– we think this was a successful first online event.

Participants grappled with questions around to what extent competition law interacts with digital rights issues, such as data protection and freedom from discrimination

Participants grappled with questions around to what extent competition law interacts with digital rights issues, such as data protection and freedom from discrimination, and case ideas were formulated around some potentially anti-competitive practices that are playing out in the digital context, from intermediaries privileging their own products and services to the exclusion of others, to online platforms leveraging their access to user data to abuse their dominant position over various markets.

Day #2 Visualisation

Equally important, some conversations led to the conclusion that competition law actually wasn’t the right framework to tackle certain issues, which is a key learning in and of itself. 

One of the main conclusions was that we could have spent much more time discussing these topics, and developing case ideas. We are mapping next steps, including the possibility of offering some dedicated support for case development and litigation in this area.

Stay tuned for updates and, as always, if you have any thoughts or suggestions you’d like to share with us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Participants at the workshop