After something of a slowdown in 2020, enforcement of antitrust is expected to bounce back in 2022, as it did after the global financial crisis. Top of the list for many authorities appears to be the tech sector and the impact of technology.
The main focus of enforcement in the tech sector is likely to relate to tech giants – in particular, self-preferencing. Many authorities, including the EU, are considering regulation to supplement perceived gaps in the types of conduct that traditional abuse of dominance rules can tackle. No consensus has yet emerged on the best way to tackle these issues and this will be a major challenge for global undertakings who need to navigate a patchwork of rules
Cartel enforcement is also on the cards. A number of authorities including the EU, French, Polish, NZ, US and UK authorities have taken action in relation to online selling conditions, while authorities in the UK, France and Spain, are also looking closely at how technology can be used to facilitate collusion including use of price-scraping technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
And despite the recent slowdown, Europe has seen 6 new antitrust cases opened in the tech sector in 2020 reflecting both increased reliance on technology and political concerns about the power of Big Tech. Several of these cases involve the use of data, which we anticipate will be the subject of intense scrutiny going forward as regulators approach the challenge of managing the novel issues presented by Big Data. We also expect to see continued enforcement activity in relation to e-commerce and online platforms.
It's worth noting that globally, authorities are assessing the impact of anti-competitive behaviour on consumers and using this to inform the cases they pursue. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic with most authorities investigating excessive pricing or exploitation cases. High on the priority list will be cases that directly raise prices or impact consumer’s rights.
Read our updated 2021 Global Enforcement Index Report 2021, which looks at recent trends in global cartel enforcement, for more.