Adam Chilton: Europe Is Now the Global Authority on Competition Regulation

Competitive tension

Modern antitrust laws were invented in America. Yet it’s Europe that’s now acting as the global authority on competition regulation. The United States is losing the global race.

The Department of Justice is staffing up its online-platforms unit to probe antitrust violations by technology giants like Facebook, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon, yet will be playing catch-up to its European Union counterpart. In fact, it’s the EU that has kept these and other U.S. companies in check for years with its vigorous antitrust enforcement. Since 2017, the European Commission has fined Google, for example, nearly $10 billion for breaching EU antitrust laws. But beyond holding American companies to account, the EU has become the global authority on antitrust regulation.

To date, over 130 countries have adopted a domestic antitrust law, most of them reflecting what the EU has put in place. In a new study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, the authors of this column, together with Alexander Weaver, analyzed antitrust statutes from 125 countries for over 50 years, and compared them to U.S. and EU antitrust laws. First, by looking for linguistic similarity – seeing whether countries copied key pieces of language from U.S. or EU laws when writing their antitrust laws. Secondly, by considering whether the substantive provisions found in those laws mirrored more closely the provisions embedded in U.S. or EU antitrust laws.

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