The Proposed Digital Markets Act’s Effect On Free Internet Services

On 15 December 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) proposed the “Digital Services Package”. This package comprises proposals for two directly effective regulations, namely the (1) Digital Services Act (“DSA”) and (2) the Digital Markets Act (“DMA”).[1] The objective of these regulations is to create a “digital safe space” and “fair online competition” in the EU.

Due to its far-reaching terms, the DMA would likely require changes to the business models of big tech. Mandatory ‘big tech benevolence’ may well benefit “business users”, i.e. people or companies that use platforms to provide goods or services to internet users. Because, as economist Milton Friedman famously stated “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” however, changes in big tech’s business models prompted by the DMA might also affect free internet services.

This blog post presents a preliminary analysis of the DMA’s possible consequences for ‘the internet as we know it,’ i.e., for ‘big tech’, smaller internet-based competitors, and European users. The analysis is based on the DMA as it was proposed by the Commission on 15 December 2020; the scope and content of the DMA could still be amended during the legislative process. In the first part, the main prohibitions, obligations and rights set forth in the DMA, and the revenue impacts thereof for ‘big tech,’ are analyzed. The DMA’s possible consequences for smaller players and European consumers are discussed in part two. In the third part, the concept of ‘data as currency’ is clarified. The final part lays out the conclusions.

Continue reading “The Proposed Digital Markets Act’s Effect On Free Internet Services”

Can Nudging Consumers Help Promote Corporate Social Responsibility?

Governments around the world are trying to determine how to effectively promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). It has proven to be hard to regulate for CSR, so the focus has been on other policy initiatives. On the supply side, in response to calls from governments, corporations have adopted codes of conduct and related programs to promote CSR. In the eyes of CSR activists, these efforts have produced limited progress.

Attention is also being paid to the demand side of the equation. If consumers prefer socially produced goods, corporations will have incentives to adopt strong CSR programs. Behavioural sciences have suggested less interventionist ways to steer consumer choice towards socially responsible choices, in particular through various forms of nudging and social norms. Continue reading “Can Nudging Consumers Help Promote Corporate Social Responsibility?”

UK Supreme Court enables expansive supply chain liability

A parent company’s liability for damage caused by its subsidiary is grounded in control

On 10 April 2019, in Vedanta v Lungowe, the UK Supreme Court confirmed the England and Wales Court of Appeal’s decision that Vedanta may owe a duty of care to neighbours of the copper mine operated by its Zambian subsidiary. The judgment is important in three respects. First, Vedanta v Lungowe marks the first time the UK Supreme Court found that a duty of care vis-à-vis parties other than the subsidiary’s employees may be owed by the parent company (albeit in its capacity of operator). Second, this duty of care is not novel and, therefore, the lenient test for adjudicatory jurisdiction is applicable. Third, in dicta, the UK Supreme Court clarified the legal basis and scope of supply chain liability.

In this post, the UK Supreme Court’s ruling is discussed, including the assessments of jurisdiction at a preliminary stage and the issue of novelty. It also reviews the implications of the Court’s dicta for the doctrine of supply chain liability. Continue reading “UK Supreme Court enables expansive supply chain liability”

EU Competition Law as a Taxation Regime

Can tax avoidance be anticompetitive?

Google has been in the news for more than one reason. For one, its tax planning has attracted the attention of the public media, and prompted European officials to charge Google with tax avoidance or even tax evasion. The record fines imposed on Google pursuant to the EU’s competition law have made at least as many headlines; Google has appealed, but more cases are pending. These seemingly unrelated events under different legal regimes may be connected, however. The fines levied against Google under EU competition law can be seen as making Google pay its ‘fair share’ to compensate for exploiting loopholes in tax law. However, if the objective is to make Google pay its ‘fair share’, why couldn’t this objective be achieved under tax law?

Continue reading “EU Competition Law as a Taxation Regime”

European Company Law Journal: ‘Parent Company Liability after Okpabi v Shell’

Earlier this year, the England and Wales Court of Appeal issued its much-anticipated ruling in Okpabi et al. versus Royal Dutch Shell et al. The judgment addresses important questions in relation to a parent company’s liability for damage caused by its subsidiaries.

A previous blog post ‘Parent Companies Are Not Parents, Subsidiaries Are Not Children’, argued that the Court of Appeal has given a strong signal that England will not lead the way in opening up new avenues to get into the ‘deep pockets’ of parent companies to address harms caused by their subsidiaries around the world.

Building on the blog post, a recent article in the European Company Law Journal presents a further analysis of the case and discusses the implications of the ruling for companies and regulators in the future.

Parent Companies Are Not Parents, Subsidiaries Are Not Children

Okpabi v Shell Judgment Puts the Brakes on the Expansion of Parent Company Liability for Damage Caused By Its Subsidiaries

A recent judgment of the England and Wales Court of Appeal addressed important jurisdictional questions in relation to a parent company’s liability for damages caused by its subsidiaries. The court did not rule on the merits of the claim; rather, it analysed the preliminary issue of whether UK courts have jurisdiction to hear such claims. In determining whether there is jurisdiction, however, the English court did have to examine substantive law issues. This makes the case of great interest to parent company liability, and, as parent company liability overlaps with supply chain liability, also to the latter. Continue reading “Parent Companies Are Not Parents, Subsidiaries Are Not Children”

Swiss Referendum on Implementing Supply Chain Liability

a post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

Following a clear trend, Switzerland is now also considering proposals to hold  Swiss companies liable for environmental damage and human rights violations in their supply chains. Possibly inspired by the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, the Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice (SCCJ) launched the Responsible Business Initiative (“RBI”) in 2015. The RBI involves a citizens’ petition to amend the Swiss Federal Constitution to impose “appropriate due diligence” obligations on Swiss companies in  accordance with  their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles, along with liability for breaches by their subsidiaries. In response to the RBI, the Swiss Senate adopted a somewhat narrower, less ambitious proposal. Pursuant to Article 139 of the Federal Constitution, the Swiss people will be asked to vote on the RBI in a popular referendum

This post discusses the RBI and highlights the key differences between the RBI and the Senate proposal. First, the background to the RBI proposal is briefly reviewed. I will then turn to the procedural and substantive provisions of the RBI. Finally, the international private law aspects of the proposal will be analyzed. Continue reading “Swiss Referendum on Implementing Supply Chain Liability”

The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation: The Uncertain Effects of Supply Chain Due Diligence

On 17 May 2017, a new regulation on supply chain due diligence was published in the European Union’s Official Journal. The regulation, known as the “EU Conflict Minerals Regulation,” imposes obligations on EU importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold (“3TG”) originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas. Armed groups engaged in mining operations in these regions are believed to violate human rights and to use the proceeds from the sale of conflict minerals to finance their militia. The regulation is intended to disrupt the financial flows and, thus, stop the human rights abuses. Continue reading “The EU Conflict Minerals Regulation: The Uncertain Effects of Supply Chain Due Diligence”

French Constitutional Council Permits Civil, But Not Criminal Enforcement of Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

On 23 March 2017, the Constitutional council of the French Republic ruled on the constitutionality of the recently adopted Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law (hereafter “Law”). The Constitutional council held that the obligation imposed by the Law to establish a vigilance plan and the enforcement mechanisms of formal notice and injunction are not in conflict with the Constitution. Likewise, the mechanism for holding a company responsible in case of non-compliance with the obligation to establish the vigilance plan is in conformity with the Constitution. With respect to the criminal enforcement of the Law, however, the Constitutional council did identify a constitutional problem

Continue reading “French Constitutional Council Permits Civil, But Not Criminal Enforcement of Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law”

Supply Chain Liability: The French Model

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp


On 21 February 2017, the French Parliament adopted a law (the “Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law” or “Law”) that creates novel corporate supply chain liability. Specifically, the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law imposes a duty of vigilance on large companies to prevent serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and serious environmental damage in their supply chain. In a previous post, I discussed the concept of supply chain liability. As I pointed out there, the concept had not been defined by law makers yet. The French legislature has now attempted to operationalize the concept through new legislation.

Continue reading “Supply Chain Liability: The French Model”

The Mystery of Corporate Social Responsibility In a Market Economy

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

The topic of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is old, but still much debated. For a long time, the dominant view has been that corporations do not have social responsibility, but the tide appears to have changed. Recently, both governments and corporations have explicitly endorsed CSR. But how can corporations pursue the common good in a competitive market economy? Clearly, by providing employment, goods and services, and entering into various transactions, corporations advance welfare, but in what sense other than normal commercial behavior can they be “socially responsible”? Continue reading “The Mystery of Corporate Social Responsibility In a Market Economy”

Supply Chain Liability: a Primer

A post by guest blogger Penelope Bergkamp

Supply chain liability is the liability of a company for a harm caused by its business partners. Until recently, this was merely an academic theory. It no longer is: we are beginning to see court cases on supply chain liability, and more such claims will likely be filed. Continue reading “Supply Chain Liability: a Primer”

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