Hypernudging strategies in the digital market economy: a role for European competition law?
PhD student: Mrs V. Morozovaite
Promotors: Mrs Prof A. Gerbrandy, J. van Dijck
Duration: 1/5/2019 - 30/4/2023
The emergence and development of the digital market economy brought a paradigm-shift towards an ever-connected platform society. In the digital environment, giant tech platforms undertake the role of a choice architect and thus regulate users behaviour. In fact, at the heart of giant techs business models lie hypernudging strategies that allow platforms to assembly users choices in a far-reaching, adjusting-in-real-time and highly personalised manner. Hypernudging practices occur in commercial space, as consumers are being nudged towards a transaction. They may also be used in political marketing nudging citizens towards a political preference. The growing entwinedness of market and non-market effects of platforms hypernudging users present new challenges to the policymakers. The project is geared towards answering the main research question: What is the role that European competition law ought to serve to address the challenges raised by giant tech platforms hypernudging their users? This research aims to identify market and non-market effects of hypernudging strategies in the digital economy context and evaluate them against the current and normative European competition law framework. Particular attention is being paid to consumer welfare standard. Consumer choice, being one of the key components of consumer welfare, is central to this discussion. As platforms engage in hypernudging strategies, they arguably limit users meaningful choice and autonomy in economic and non-economic domains. While in the abuse of dominance cases, consumer choice has served as basis for fleshing out theories of harm, there remains a gap in research as to whether, and in which circumstances, giant techs acting as choice architects of the digital environment may trigger European competition laws response (for example, consider a possibility of developing new theories of harm: Bundeskartellamt 2017). This PhD project, thus, aims to fill in this gap.