In recent decades, the development of very large buyers in previously more fragmented industries makes buyer power a recurrent issue in competition law cases. Buyer power can simultaneously be a boon and a menace for markets and competition. It may provide a countervailing force to enhanced seller power, and unless it leads to successive power, it can lead to lower prices in the downstream market. However, buyer power may also be socially detrimental, when it is not in the presence of strong seller power. It may undermine the long-term viability of suppliers and their willingness for innovation. Thus, the impact of buyer power in the economy is ambiguous. Analysis of buyer power should be on a case-by-case basis and involve an assessment of the likely distortion in both the upstream and the downstream markets. There should be no presumption that buyer power per se is infringing competition law.
This article will focus both on analysing countervailing buyer power and anticompetitive buyer power (or buyer market power). The article will address the issue of market definition and analyse the measures for assessing buyer power. It will also analyse cases involving buyer power under Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty as well as under the European Control Merger Regulation (ECMR). This article has been shortlisted for the 1st World Competition Young Writer Award.World Competition