Competition in Digital Markets

Course overview

The digital sector has become pervasive in our economies, and has transformed our lives in many (mostly positive) respects. But there are increasing concerns that competition in digital markets does not work properly, leading to the creation of dominant platforms with persistent market power. This in in turn may make it difficult for rivals to challenge the position of the incumbents and may not deliver to consumers the benefits that a truly open market would provide. Antitrust authorities have investigated (and sanctioned) some practices adopted by these dominant platforms, but there is also a debate on the extent to which competition law may be able to intervene, and how.

This course offers the opportunity to understand how the digital economy works, and under what conditions competition may not function as it should in this sector. It provides participants with a thorough understanding of how to evaluate the substitutability between different offerings and when to view practices such as tying, exclusive contracts, price-parity clauses, and discriminatory access to platforms as anti-competitive (but also explain in what circumstances they are likely to be beneficial). It also offers a framework to address mergers and acquisitions of smaller and/or potential competitors, to evaluate their possible anti-competitive and pro-competitive effects and to identify when they should be approved and when not. The course includes a review of a number of high-profile cases of abuse of dominance and anti-competitive agreements, from the older Microsoft and Intel cases, to more recent cases involving online travel agencies, e-books, Google, and Qualcomm. We shall also discuss several mergers in the digital sector.

The Barcelona GSE Intensive Course on Competition in Digital Markets will provide participants (whether lawyers or economists, working for firms or in agencies) with a thorough understanding of the most recent economic theories, will help them apply these concepts in practice, and will review actual cases in the light of those theories. The program’s faculty includes leading international competition scholars and practitioners with extensive experience of the application of economic techniques to competition cases in this area.


  • Giulio Federico (Head of Unit, CET, DG Competition European Commission)
  • Chiara Fumagalli (Associate Professor of Economics, Bocconi University)
  • Massimo Motta (Professor of Economics, ICREA-UPF and Barcelona GSE; former Chief Competition Economist, European Commission) - course director
  • Martin Peitz (Professor of Economics, University of Mannheim)

Key benefits

  • Review established and recent economic theories on how digital markets work through a largely non-formal exposition also accessible to non-economists
  • Identify the distinguishing economic features and likely effects of practices adopted by platforms
  • Understand why big data and algorithms matter 
  • Acquire the tools to apply a sound economic approach to antitrust cases in the digital sector
  • Review and understand the key economic considerations behind landmark competition cases on abuse of dominance, anti-competitive agreements, or mergers
  • Learn to structure potential theories of harm and/or defenses in an economically coherent way
  • Acquire the ability to critically evaluate economic analysis and submissions in antitrust matters
  • Learn to assess the regulatory risk of a large platform’s conduct
  • Discuss recent reports on the digital sector, and current as well as proposed regulatory policies on data and platforms

Next edition TBA

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