Book part:
New Media and New Territories for European Law: Competition in the Market for Social Networking Services


Competition (or antitrust) law regulations around the world are supposed to maintain open competition on the economic markets through a series of national or international regulations and their enforcement by authorities. In the digital age, new (online) markets emerge and some stakeholders may be concerned whether present regulations and practices of national cartel offices, i.e. the national competition regulators, are still suitable. The focus of this chapter is on social networking services (SNSs), as an example of a new medium, and the question whether the current European competition law is sufficient to control these new and rapid developments. The market for consumer communication services (CCS) as well as aspects of data privacy are also addressed. The legal perspective on this matter will be complemented with an analysis in view of information science and economic theories. Here, such aspects as direct and indirect network effects, or standards established on the relevant markets are significant. It is possible these network effects will have a noticeable influence on the development of monopolies or oligopolies in the SNSs market. Furthermore, SNSs that in recent years became more or less standards appear to have strengthened their position by broadening their offerings spectrum through internal enhancements and acquisitions of other companies. These practices may be also relevant in the legal debate. In terms of the competition law, the first step is determining if there are potential monopolies or oligopolies within the SNSs market, how they emerge, and how persistent they are. For this purpose, the relevant market must be defined. Should one company have a monopoly position and abuse this power in any way, consequences under the cartel law, particularly under Article 102 from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) will follow. The second step is investigating if another aspect of the competition law – merger control – should become more relevant (and more rigid) for the SNSs market now and in the future. For this purpose, the recent agreement between Facebook and WhatsApp will be discussed and the (approving) decision of the European Commission (EC) analyzed. Moreover, the most important aspects of the European merger regulation and its lack of compatibility with data privacy protection will be addressed. Finally, a conclusion regarding the compatibility of (European and German) cartel offices’ current practices with the new market for SNSs will be offered.

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Preferred Citation
Fietkiewicz, Kaja J.; Lins, Elmar: New Media and New Territories for European Law: Competition in the Market for Social Networking Services. In: Knautz, Kathrin;Baran, Katsiaryna S.: Facets of Facebook: Use and Users. Berlin: de Gruyter 2016, S. 285-324. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/11957.
 author = {Fietkiewicz, Kaja J. and Lins, Elmar},
 title = {New Media and New Territories for European Law: Competition in the Market for Social Networking Services},
 year = 2016,
 doi = {10.25969/mediarep/11957},
 editor = {Knautz, Kathrin and Baran, Katsiaryna S.},
 address = {Berlin},
 booktitle = {Facets of Facebook: Use and Users},
 pages = {285--324},
 publisher = {de Gruyter},
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