Abuse of market power through “shadow websites”

Some time ago, alre­a­dy in 2021, the­re were reports about so-cal­led shadow web­sites in con­nec­tion with the deli­very ser­vice plat­form Lie­feran­do. Accor­ding to the report, Lie­feran­do had regis­tered about 50,000 domains in Ger­ma­ny alo­ne, which are simi­lar to the actu­al web­sites of the restau­rants. Via the­se domains, the plat­form can attract users to its ser­vices. The con­se­quen­ces for the con­nec­ted restau­rants are:

  • more order tran­sac­tions are pro­ces­sed via the plat­form, which leads to com­mis­si­on claims
  • in the search engi­ne ran­kings, their own Inter­net pre­sen­ces are incre­asing­ly inferior.

The cus­to­mer is thus incre­asing­ly drawn to the plat­form and rare­ly rea­ches the restau­rant­’s own website.

Digital platforms and predatory pricing

Whe­re does the anti­trust pro­blem lie? At first glan­ce, one might think that the plat­form offers a web pre­sence in addi­ti­on to its own media­ti­on ser­vices. If this were optio­nal and vol­un­t­a­ry for the restau­rants, this would also be unobjectionable.

Howe­ver, an abu­se of pre­da­ti­on is obvious if the ori­gi­nal media­ti­on ser­vice is invol­un­t­a­ri­ly or unwit­tingly trans­for­med into a sales ser­vice of its own and the plat­form gains more con­trol over the cus­to­mer rela­ti­onship in the pro­cess. This is rein­forced when the plat­form adopts the busi­ness model of the actu­al inter­me­dia­ry cli­ent. This would be the case if the­re is no lon­ger any fall­back option.

A spe­cial respon­si­bi­li­ty for resi­du­al com­pe­ti­ti­on can fol­low from the mar­ket posi­ti­on of a com­pa­ny. This increa­ses in pro­por­ti­on to the mar­ket power. This can also result in a duty of con­side­ra­ti­on when ope­ra­ting in other mar­kets or ente­ring other mar­kets. The more mar­ket power, the more respon­si­bi­li­ty and the more con­side­ra­ti­on — for com­pe­ti­ti­on. You can read more about this in my doc­to­ral the­sis start­ing on pages 293 ff.

About the author

Porträtbild von Dr. Sebastian Louven

Dr. Sebastian Louven

I have been an independent lawyer since 2016 and advise mainly on antitrust law and telecommunications law. Since 2022 I am a specialist lawyer for international business law.

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