Professor Justus Haucap is founding director of the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE), Germany’s leading academic think tank on competition economics, and partner of DICE Consult. From 2006 to 2014 he was a member of the German Monopolies Commission and for four years also its chairman. He is a member of several advisory boards and has contributed his expertise to all areas of competition economics, including merger proceedings, abuse of market power and cartel damages.
Describe your career to date.
After completing my PhD in economics in 1997, my first job was working as analyst at the New Zealand Treasury on the reform of New Zealand’s competition law, and later on competition issues in telecommunications and electricity markets. I later moved back to Germany to the academic world and became professor of economics with a specialisation in competition policy and founding director of the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE). I was a member of Germany’s monopolies commission for eight years and also served as the commission’s chairman for four years. After leaving the commission in 2014, I started offering consultancy services on competition matters and founded DICE Consult.
How has the covid-19 pandemic affected the competition space?
While there has been an even more rapid shift to digital services in many markets, courts have slowed down so many court cases are still pending. Many markets will see increasing concentration levels and we will probably see an increasing number of acquisitions, following the pandemic.
How might regulators improve consumer trust in the digital economy?
We recently published an empirical evaluation of the Unfair Commercial Practice Directive (UCPD) in the International Journal of Industrial Organization. The UCPD was implemented by EU member states between 2007 and 2010, and we have found a significant relationship between the introduction of the UCPD and consumer trust and cross-border online purchases for countries with a low consumer protection level before the introduction of the UCPD.
What effect has the increasing focus on ‘sustainability’ in competition had on the area?
New types of “efficiency defences” for horizontal and vertical agreements will emerge, and these justifications will provide new challenges in their assessment.
How might increasing access to third-party data drive competition in the digital economy? What disadvantages need to be navigated?
Data is increasingly important in the digital economy. In some instances, data may become an essential facility, but even below the essential facility threshold firms may be heavily dependent on access to data. Since data can be shared, in principle, granting third-party access rights may be justified even below the essential facility threshold, as long as there are no good reasons against data sharing such as privacy. A key unresolved question is the proper access charge, which may be based on FRAND principles.
What advantages does an international perspective in your research bring to your practice?
As an active researcher, I am always confronted with cutting-edge research, and new ideas and findings from around the globe. This is of invaluable help when dealing with practical cases.
How would you like to see your practice and research develop over the next couple of years?
Our practice is growing at a steady pace. We are involved in very interesting merger cases, recently in grocery retailing and digital markets. We also helped CRRC to get its acquisition of Vossloh passed. I also expect that so-called s.20 cases – where firms may not be dominant but have relative or superior market power in relation to their trading partners – will become more important, especially in digital platform markets. Given that these cases are a German particularity, I suspect that German practices like ours are getting increasingly involved in these cases.
What key skills and traits would you encourage in the next generation of competition experts?
For economists, it is very important to develop strong skills with respect to empirical methods. However, you also need a sound background in economic theory and, what is often underestimated by economists, a very good understanding of the law.