Algorithms as Illegal Agreements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Algorithms offer a legal way to overcome some of the obstacles to profit-boosting coordination, and create a jointly profitable status quo in the market. While current research has largely focused on the concerns raised by algorithmic-facilitated coordination, this Article takes the next step, asking to what extent current laws can be fitted to effectively deal with this phenomenon. To meet this challenge, this Article advances in three stages. The first Part analyzes the effects of algorithms on the ability of competitors to coordinate their conduct. While this issue has been addressed by other researchers, this Article seeks to contribute to the analysis by systematically charting the technological abilities of algorithms that may affect coordination in the digital ecosystem in which they operate. Special emphasis is placed on the fact that the algorithms is a "recipe for action," which can be directly or indirectly observed by competitors. The second Part explores the promises as well as the limits of market solutions. In particular, it considers the use of algorithms by consumers and off-the-grid transactions to counteract some of the effects of algorithmic-facilitated coordination by suppliers. The shortcomings of such market solutions lead to the third Part, which focuses on the ability of existing legal tools to deal effectively with algorithmic-facilitated coordination, while not harming the efficiencies they bring about. The analysis explores three interconnected questions that stand at the basis of designing a welfare-enhancing policy: What exactly do we wish to prohibit, and can we spell this out clearly for market participants? What types of conduct are captured under the existing antitrust laws? And is there justification for widening the regulatory net beyond its current prohibitions in light of the changing nature of the marketplace? In particular, the Article explores the application of the concepts of plus factors and facilitating practices to algorithms. The analysis refutes the claim that current laws are sufficient to deal with algorithmic-facilitated coordination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-118
Number of pages52
JournalBerkeley Technology Law Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • RESTRAINT of trade
  • PRICE discrimination
  • HUMAN capital
  • PROFIT maximization


Dive into the research topics of 'Algorithms as Illegal Agreements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this