2021 looks set to be a busy year for antitrust enforcement and regulation in digital markets.

Whether it is businesses at the forefront of the digital economy, investors in innovation-heavy industries, or companies looking to digitalise further in the years ahead, everyone will need to be prepared to navigate the authorities’ ever-expanding global enforcement and regulatory agenda in the digital sphere.

  • In the EU, the European Commission unveiled its two widely heralded legislative proposals on regulating the role of so-called 'gatekeeper' platforms on 15 December: the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act.
  • In parallel, the UK Digital Markets Taskforce published its recommendations for the UK Government to establish its own separate regime to regulate firms with so-called 'strategic market status' on 8 December 2020 – a regime which would further bolster the CMA’s already interventionist stance in innovation-heavy sectors.
  • In the US, legislators issued a much-anticipated report on competition in digital markets that calls for major antitrust reforms. The new Biden administration is expected to take a firmer stance on antitrust enforcement – particularly with respect to nascent competition – potentially aligning the US more closely with Europe.
  • In China, the authority is working on guidelines to clarify how anti-monopoly rules apply to platform conduct; and regulators in Japan plan to begin monitoring certain platforms through mandatory disclosures of certain business practices.

Against this backdrop, we think businesses in 2021 will need to give particular thought to:

  • whether their plans involve acquiring especially innovative entities or entities which could be perceived as so-called 'nascent competitors';
  • whether they intend to acquire, create or aggregate valuable datasets, either as a result of M&A or through collaborations;
  • whether they serve as an important gateway for other businesses to reach customers, particularly for businesses active in a competing downstream market; and
  • whether they are sufficiently open and transparent with their users, be those consumers or other businesses, particularly when it comes to collecting and using data.

We discuss all of these points in our eleventh annual overview of what we think will be the 10 key trends in global antitrust enforcement in the year ahead: 10 key themes 2021.

Throughout the year, we will hold a number of events to discuss the implications of these and other developments. If you are interested in joining our discussions or hearing more from our global experts on these topics, do get in touch.