Imperfect Competition Law Enforcement
AbstractCompetition policy is a subject of often heated debate. Competition authorities, seeking to battle anticompetitive acts in complex cases to the best of their abilities, regularly find themselves advised by rival economic theories and disputed empirical analyses. As a consequence, there is a real possibility that they may occasionally err, missing true violations of competition law or finding firms liable that have actually done nothing but good competition. In this paper, possible consequences of such imperfect competition law enforcement on firm strategies are considered. In a simple cartel setting, it is found that the incidence of anti-competitive behavior increases in both types of enforcement errors: Type II errors decrease expected fines, while Type I errors encourage industries to collude precautionary when they face the risk of false allegations. Hence, fallible antitrust enforcement may stifle genuine competition. Moreover, when enforcement error are non-negligible, competition authorities run the risk of being over-zealous, in the sense that welfare is best served by an authority that is selective in its targeting of alleged anticompetitive acts.
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