Center on Civil Justice panel unpacks the role of antitrust in the platform economy

As businesses like Uber and Airbnb facilitate transactions on digital platforms, matching customers and service providers, they raise a number of antitrust concerns about what is often called the platform economy. Panelists addressed the regulatory, antitrust, and labor issues surrounding the platform economy in the third event in a four-part antitrust series hosted by the Center on Civil Justice at NYU Law, in association with Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law Cynthia Estlund moderated the virtual panel on April 7. 

Selected remarks from the discussion:

Doha Mekki, Assistant Chief, Defense, Industrials, and Aerospace Section, Antitrust Division
“What’s interesting…is that the intersection of labor markets and digital platforms really highlights the gig economy and the employment status of workers as either employees or independent contractors. And that really matters for a number of reasons.… It may give rise to different rights and responsibilities under federal labor law—for example, whether your employer has to offer you overtime or healthcare. And the classification of workers can affect antitrust issues like the reach of the statutory and non-statutory labor exemptions.”

Judge Diane Wood, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
“I share [FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips’s] concern about getting too, I guess, unclear about the difference between a cartel and some other more benign arrangement. Because, you know, cartels really do harm consumers, they harm the economy. I’m not sure I would go so far, though, as to say that when atomized players decide to coordinate, we call that a cartel, because what we know is that there’s a preliminary decision that we have to make. We have to decide whether this step of moving from the atomized condition into a collective position is one that we see some value in.”

Posted May 11, 2021