Hearing #1 On Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century - Sept. 13-14 at Georgetown University Law Center #FTC-2018-0074-D-0046

Submission Number:
FTC-2018-0074-D-0046
Commenter:
Heinrich Lastnamenotgiven
State:
Outside the United States
Initiative Name:
Hearing #1 On Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century - Sept. 13-14 at Georgetown University Law Center
Ladies and Gentlemen, the current debate concerning the re-design of regulation surrounding tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, etc. focusses largely on whether economic measures of consumer welfare are reduced by these companies. Arguments range from a neoclassical standpoint that no legislation is required as long as consumer-prices are low to a counter-argument that Amazon or Facebook could be treated in parts like an infrastructure (e.g. like a railroad network) that must ensure usage by third parties so as to ensure continuing plurality in competition. What this debate so far has not appreciated sufficiently is the dimension of moral and ethical foundations. Why is it a good idea that regular Taxis are not allowed to run auctions when there is excess demand to determine who gets a ride off the street? Clearly, not only because this would waste time and be inefficient. No. Mostly this is inconceivable because the person in need at the front of the queue (--imagine rain and late at night as well--) would perhaps be outbid by some recent arrival (--imagine someone rolling out of a club drunk--) from the back with greater urgency and deeper pockets. The no-surge-pricing rule for regular Taxis is a matter of ensuring and protecting some form of fairness norm on the streets. So why then is Uber allowed to surge-price at all? In sum, the legislative questions are phrased too narrowly and the approach to address them has been too focused on standard economic measures. A wider debate should ensue as to whether and which of the fundamental technologies used by tech companies are consistent with the basic pillars of economic interaction that have successfully shaped society and markets. Best, A foreigner