In 2004, European merger law was substantially revised, with the aim of achieving a ‘more economic approach’ to merger policy. This column discusses a recent empirical assessment of European merger cases before and after the reform. Post-reform, the outcomes of merger cases became more predictable, and the Commission prohibited fewer pro-competitive mergers. While there remains room for improvement in several aspects, the reform seems to have been successful in bringing European competition law closer to economic principles.
Since the adoption of the Anti-Monopoly law in 2007, the Chinese competition authorities have stepped up enforcement of mergers and anti-competitive practices. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has relied heavily on behavioural remedies in merger cases (as opposed to the more efficient structural remedies favoured by the European Commission). Furthermore, merger policy has been used to protect domestic industries from competition. In contrast, Chinese fines for cartels have shown no foreign bias, and if anything have been too low.
Horizontal acquisitions affect prices through two channels: by eliminating competition between the firms involved, and by changing the incentives for collusion in the affected industry. This column summarises recent research that quantifies these two effects using a new methodology – one that accounts for the difference between financial interests and corporate control. A study of the disposable-razor industry shows that small firms have the greatest incentive to undercut pricing agreements. After acquisitions, acquiring firms have greater incentives to collude, whereas other firms in the industry are more likely to defect.
Cartel fines imposed by the European Commission routinely reach hundreds of millions of euro, having increased since the new 2006 fining policy. This column argues that they are still below their optimal level and come too slowly. Fines were often lower than the additional cartel profits and imposed 10 to 20 years after making the law-breaking decision was made – sometimes after the responsible managers had retired. To speed investigations, the Commission should Increase resources dedicated to inquiries; fines should also be raised.
What are the competitive effects of bundling? This columns presents the results of an empirical study of the market for office productivity software in the 1990s. Counterfactual simulations suggest that the introduction of a bundled office suite increases consumer welfare – provided that preferences for word processors and spreadsheet programs are positively correlated, and that competitors do not exit the market.
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- 21st Century Challenges: The Mobile Middle Class13 - 13 March 2014 / Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, SW7 London / Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
- The 13th Annual GEP Postgraduate Conference 20141 - 2 May 2014 / Nottingham / Sponsored by Nottingham Centre for Research on Globalisation and Economic Policy (GEP) University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
- Exchange Rates and External Adjustment2 - 3 June 2014 / Zurich / Swiss National Bank
- 13th Summer School in International Development Economics: Investment, Saving and Wellbeing in Developing Countries10 - 13 June 2014 / Palazzo Feltrinelli, Gargnano, Lake Garda (Italy) / Organisers: Centro Studi Luca d’Agliano, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Paolo Baffi Center on International Markets, Money and Regulation, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods of the University of Milan, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Business Strategies of the University of Milan Bicocca, Vilfredo Pareto Doctoral Program in Economics of the University of Turin, The Lombardy Advanced School of Economic Research (LASER).
- 3rd WB-BE Research Conference: Financing growth: Levers, Boosters and Brakes23 - 24 June 2014 / Banco de España headquarters in Madrid / This conference is sponsored by Banco de España and The World Bank