The Digital Market Power of Internet Platforms

November 13, 2019

Internet platforms Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are currently the most valuable firms in the world in terms of market capitalization. Their influence is not limited to the economic dimension - since the 2018 Cambridge-Analytica scandal, the political influence of digital companies has been criticized. In his recently published PhD thesis, Maximilian Volmar, former research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Private Law, examines how the notion of market dominance should be understood in the context of digital platforms and investigates when such dominance really exists.

The growing influence of 21st century internet platforms in the economic, social and political spheres has sparked a discussion on the appropriate regulation of these companies. At the centre of this debate is antitrust law - the area of law established to control dominant companies. However, the application of the fundamental concept of market dominance in antitrust law is confronted with numerous challenges in the context of internet platforms, ranging from the gratuitous nature of their services to the multi-sided nature of the business models at issue.

In the present work, Maximilian Volmar dismantles the concept of dominance into its constituent parts and examines the extent to which current methodology needs to be adapted to the digital economy. In doing so, his inquiry incorporates insights from the field of Law and Economics and considers the legal systems of Germany, the European Union and the United States. Based on his findings, Volmar evaluates the reform efforts of the German lawmaker with the 9th Amendment of the Act Against Restraints of Competition (GWB). Further, he shows where a consideration of the approach of other legal systems could benefit the GWB.

The result of the work is a first step towards addressing the digital revolution in the context of assessing market dominance.

Maximilian Volmar, Digitale Marktmacht (Wirtschaftsrecht und Wirtschaftspolitik, 301), Universität Hamburg 2019, Hamburg 2019, PhD Thesis, 481 pp.
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