The internal and external constraints of data protection on competition law in the EU

Francisco Costa-Cabral, Orla Lynskey

Research output: Working paperOther research output


Personal data has both an economic and a dignitary value. This begs the question of whether competition law should respect the dual nature of personal data, given that the regulation of competition is chiefly dictated by economic concerns. This article addresses that question by mapping the potential intersections between EU data protection law and competition law. In particular, it argues that data protection law exercises an internal and an external constraint on competition law. On the one hand, competition law involves judgments about ‘normal competition’ and consumer welfare which may require a normative contribution by data protection law. Using data protection as a normative benchmark in this way does not depart from the logic of competition law as data protection still requires a competitive concern hook on which to hang. Data protection would thus act as an ‘internal constraint’ on competition law. On the other hand, regardless of such logic, competition authorities are bound to respect the fundamental right to data protection. This requires them to restrict the scope of competition law and to guarantee the effectiveness of that fundamental right. In this way, data protection acts as an ‘external constraint’ on competition law. Recognising these constraints would pave the way for a more coherent EU law approach to consumer concerns in a digital society.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameLaw, Society and Economy Working Papers
PublisherLondon School of Economics


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