Protecting consumers and their data through competition law? Rethinking abuse of dominance in light of the Federal Cartel Office’s Facebook investigation

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Series Details Volume 14, Number 2-3, Pages 195-215
Publication Date June 2018
ISSN 1744-1056
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The Facebook proceeding of the German Federal Cartel Office is the latest among a number of competition law investigations that target large US-American technology companies. The Office suspects that Facebook abused its dominant position on the market for social networks by imposing unfair data privacy conditions upon its users.

This preliminary finding presents a legal novelty because it relies mainly on the fact that the company violated rules outside of competition law, namely data protection law. This calls for a wider evaluation of the currently debated relationship of competition and data protection law.

We investigate if such an abuse theory is also conceivable under EU competition law, specifically under Art 102 TFEU. Although the Court of Justice of the European Union separates competition and data protection law strictly, it hinted at a different understanding in a recent judgment. Also, the sentiment of the nascent ‘Vestager School’ with its emphasis on fairness may support this theory of an abuse. We conclude that this novel concept is conceivable under EU law.

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