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One of the means by which firms may behave anti-competitively is by engaging in unilateral conduct that damages the competitive process and consumer welfare. Such conduct may be described in various ways in different jurisdictions, including as monopolisation, abuse of dominance or misuse of market power. However, the rules that apply to it share a common aim, namely to target conduct by firms with market power that is likely to harm competition and reduce consumer welfare.
Anti-competitive unilateral conduct generally involves conduct by a firm that has substantial or monopoly/monopsony power in a market and uses that power to implement a strategy that is likely to harm competition. Debates and divergence between jurisdictions in relation to unilateral conduct relate to the level of power that should trigger legal prohibitions, the types of strategies that are likely to have anti-competitive effects and how such effects should be established and assessed. In recent years, such debates have focussed on conduct by large firms in the information technology sector.
This subject explores the approaches used by competition authorities to address anti-competitive unilateral conduct. Differences in approach between jurisdictions are critically analysed. Building on learning in previous subjects, the subject examines what is meant by unilateral market power and the conditions that enable unilateral power to be used to implement an anti-competitive strategy. Unilateral conduct that gives rise to a competition concern may take various forms, the most common categories of which are analysed in detail in this subject. Such categories include conduct involving refusals to supply and predatory pricing. However, a difficulty in addressing anti-competitive behaviour of this type is that it is not readily distinguishable from highly aggressive competition. Given this, various tests that have been used and the evidence relevant to making this distinction are examined. Seminal decisions by competition authorities and courts as well as industry case studies are used to provide insights into the competition analysis of unilateral conduct.
Highlights of the subject include:
- Critical examination of the approaches taken to the design and application of unilateral conduct laws, drawing on examples from different jurisdictions around the world;
- In-depth case studies of unilateral conduct in a range of industry sectors with a view to ensuring students can properly analyse the rationales for such conduct and assess their likely effects on competition; and
- Insights and perspectives from leading stakeholders such as competition authority officials and practitioners to assist students in grappling with the challenges posed by the design and enforcement of unilateral conduct rules.
Intended learning outcomes
On completion of this subject, students will have developed:
- Advanced knowledge of the economic principles, legal rules and enforcement approaches that apply to unilateral conduct;
- Sophisticated cognitive and technical skills that equip them to critically analyse and assess the competitive effects of unilateral conduct;
- A capacity to use the knowledge and skills students have gained in the subject in a way that demonstrates effective autonomy, judgment, adaptability and responsibility as an expert learner and practitioner in the field of global competition and consumer law.
Last updated: 18 December 2020