Roberto Pardolesi

Digital Platforms, Private Powers, and Competition

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Digital giants, transaction platforms, abusive terms and conditions, entrepreneurial normative power, abuse of dominance, abuse of economic dependence

The dizzying growth of digital giants has marked conspicuous and indispensable progress; but it has also contributed to a spectacular sublimation of private powers, never so cogent in their history. Hence, increasingly worried diagnoses on irreversibly hegemonized markets; the tech growth is counterpointed by (but also acts as a root cause of) the decline of competition: to be revitalized at any cost, it is proclaimed by most, with initiatives ranging from the abandonment of the anti-monopoly perspective ex post to the desire for targeted regulation, up to the deconcentrative anxiety of “big is bad». Approaches of this kind have the undoubted advantage of focusing attention on critical issues of considerable depth; but their propensity to make a bundle of all the grass and to outline the stereotype of the new algorithmic villain does not help to unravel the problem. Beyond the epidermal confirmation of their undisputed centrality, which leads many to qualify them as essential infrastructures (if not natural monopolies), digital platforms do not exhibit unitary physiognomic traits. Unlike aggregators, such as Google or FB, transaction platforms, such as Amazon, manage relationships with both commercial users (P2B) and consumers (P2C), and need to implement the reliability of the former to obtain the loyalty of the latter. All this takes place based on the use, in both categories of relationships, of contractual clauses unilaterally drafted by the platform, which thus expresses its corporate regulatory power. It is, therefore, the version in bytes of a legal technology that emerged already with the massification of market transactions, so that, on the one hand, we are led to note that not everything that pertains to the protagonists of the Internet reifies unexplored dimensions, on the other to opine solutions deemed fit in the past can be reproduced, in case with the appropriate adjustments, and even work today. This is what the Euro-unitarian legislator seems to think, affording a recipe based on transparency and accessibility. But such tools have proved inadequate in their previous experience; and it is not clear how they could fare any better in the current cyber-dimension

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