The New Commissioner Of Competition Requests Changes To Address Digital Economy Challenges

Author:Mr Dominic Thérien, Stéphanie St-Jean and Bianca Annie Marcelin
Profession:McCarthy Tétrault LLP

On May 30th, 2019 the Canadian Competition Bureau hosted the Data Forum: Discussing Competition Policy in the Digital Era. This event followed the unveiling of Canada's new Digital Charter by Minister Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development and his letter to the newly-appointed Commissioner, Matthew Boswell dated May 21st, 2019.

Numerous experts and senior antitrust enforcers, including from the Canadian Competition Bureau, the US Department of Justice, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the European Commission, gathered to discuss the challenges related to digital platforms, the intersection between privacy and competition law, and data portability. The key takeaways from the event are summarized below:

Digital Charter Era: Minister Bains reiterated his commitment to ensure that the Canadian marketplace stays competitive in the new digital era, that Canada be a leader in data economy and respond properly to market abuses. Minister Bains emphasized that the Digital Charter (see our previous summary) is a necessary foundation to build and restore trust for Canadians in the digital era. He stressed the Competition Bureau's role in this new era, notably asking in his May 21st letter that the Commissioner focus on (i) the impact of digital transformation on competition; (ii) the emerging issues for competition in data accumulation, transparency, and control; (iii) the effectiveness of current competition policy tools and marketplace frameworks; and (iv) the effectiveness of current investigative and judicial processes. Privacy and Competition Law: The intersection of privacy and competition law has been the subject of many discussions in recent years. While privacy laws will deal specifically with breaches of privacy, competition laws will also sometimes overlap in the regulation of practices related to privacy. For instance, the Competition Act could be used to address misrepresentations to consumers with respect to privacy protection. Clarity on the boundaries and complementary of privacy and competition law is needed going forward to avoid a potential enforcement overlap. Data Portability: It is clear from the discussions during the Forum that this is not the end of debates with respect to data portability. While it may be perceived as a solution to increase access to market for smaller businesses and start-ups, data portability comes with its own set of challenges. Speakers raised concerns with respect...

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