Algorithmic pricing and its implications on competition law and policy in South Africa

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University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
The upsurge in the use of technology has proliferated the use of pricing algorithms which have become essential to e-commerce. Although South Africa had been privy to this shift prior to 2020, the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this shift. While the use of pricing algorithms in Competition law is accompanied by many pro-competitive benefits, it is also accompanied by various anti-competitive effects which include algorithmic-based collusion. Despite the fact that this topic has been addressed within the context of competition law in other jurisdictions, it has yet to be addressed from the viewpoint of the South African Competition Act 58 of 1998. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to establish whether the Competition Act and South African competition policy at large, is robust enough to withstand the effects of digitalisation, particularly from the perspective of section 4 of the Competition Act which regulates relationships between competitors. In carrying out this analysis, this paper defines pricing algorithms and outlines their pro-competitive and anti-competitive effects.Thereafter, through the prism of four scenarios where pricing algorithms facilitate collusion, as posited by Ezrachi and Stucke in their seminal work on Virtual Competition, this paper establishes the robustness of the Competition Act by applying the scenarios to the Acts. Ultimately, this paper concludes that the current Competition Act (as amended) is in fact robust enough to tackle situations where algorithmic-based collusion arises. Where it is not, this paper argues that it is, at present, unnecessary for the relevant authorities to amend the current law or introduce any new laws
A research report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Laws by Coursework and Research Report at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023
Competition, Algorithms, Algorithmic pricing, Competition Act, UCTD
Fowler, Ashly. (2023). Algorithmic pricing and its implications on competition law and policy in South Africa [Master’s dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg]. WireDSpace.