Michal S Gal and Thomas K Cheng
2016, Vol. 4, Issue 2, pp 282-322
Abstract: Competition law is generally focused on competition in a market. Yet, as recent economic studies have clearly indicated, one of the main sources of competition concerns of jurisdictions around the world is the impact of high levels of aggregate concentration in their markets, when a small group of economic entities controls a large part of the economic activity through holdings in many markets. High levels of aggregate concentration can significantly impact competition and welfare. On the one hand, conglomerates’ substantial resources and varied experiences, as well as their economies of scale and scope, often enable them to enter markets more readily than other firms, especially when entry barriers are high. On the other hand, high levels of aggregate concentration raise significant competitive concerns. Most importantly, oligopolistic coordination in and across markets as well as entry barriers into markets might be increased. These effects, in turn, might lead to stagnation and poor utilization of resources, which adversely affect growth and welfare. Another major concern is a political economy one: given their size and economic heft, large conglomerates may attempt to translate their economic power into political power in order to create, protect and entrench their privileged positions. Given these effects, the article attempts to explore the weight given—if at all—to aggregate concentration in the application of competition laws around the world. The analysis is based, inter alia, on the experiences of 35 different jurisdictions in dealing with aggregate concentration through competition law, based on a survey performed with the assistance of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.