Uncovering blindspots in the policy debate on platform power: Final report

Christoph Busch, Inge Graef, Jeanette Hofmann, Annabelle Gawer

Research output: Book/ReportReport

Abstract

This report maps different sources and types of power in the platform economy by bringing together existing insights from various disciplines such as law, economics, political science and business strategy. The various strands of research are connected with current policy discussions on how to design and implement platform regulation. The objective is to uncover elements of platform power that deserve more attention, both in relation to the application of current legal regimes and with regard to the development of future regulatory frameworks.

The control exercised by platforms can no longer be adequately captured by merely looking at economic characteristics (such as network effects, and economies of scale and scope) and the existing notion of ‘market power’. The power held by platforms goes beyond control over markets and also directly impacts businesses, consumers and our society at large. While current policy debates focus mainly on concerns relating to the control held by platforms over their business users, attention also needs be paid to the extent of control exercised over consumers and citizens.

The ability of platforms to influence consumer behaviour is a source of power that deserves better understanding. In addition, more awareness needs to be created about the societal and infrastructural aspects of platform power. The COVID-19 crisis has shed new light on our dependence on platforms and digital technologies in spheres of key public consideration, such as healthcare and education. Digital platforms are also increasingly acting as gatekeepers of public interests, including through their ability to influence democracy through their control over how human rights and freedoms can be exercised via their services. As the impact of the platform economy on vital public interests like innovation, healthcare and democracy keeps expanding, these are decisive moments for establishing the priorities of EU policy and regulation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEuropean Commission
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Digital platforms
  • Infastructural power
  • Digital ecosystems
  • Democracy
  • Consumer protection
  • Competition
  • Data protection

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