A half-day lecture on international competition law, a rapidly-emerging legal practice area following the enactment of the Philippine Competition Act. The lecture featured Geneva-based Dr. Pierre Horna, Legal Affairs Officer, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, United Nations Conference of Trade and Development, who spoke on Cross-Border Algorithmic Tacit Collusion. 50 attended the lecture, which was co-organized by the Disini & Disini Law Office and the Asian Tech Lawyers Association, and held at the Henry Sy Hall, University of the Philippines Bonifacio Global City campus.

The guest of honor was introduced by Atty. JJ Disini, Executive Director of the Digital Freedom Network and a Founding Member of the Asian Tech Lawyers Association. Atty. Disini remarked upon the growing interest in the Philippines in competition law, and various emerging technologies that increase economic efficiency but at the same time raise concerns on whether market competition is unduly hampered.

Dr. Horna began with an overview of competition law theory, focusing on the concept of collusion, or where market players agree or seem to agree to engage in anti-competitive practices that prevent, restrict, or lessen competition. He then pointed out that the rise of artificial intelligence and powerful algorithms could create more durable cartels that are able to maintain higher prices at the consumers’ expense. He cited pricing algorithms, that automated the analysis required in balancing supply and demand with greater speed and precision than any human pricing manager could. The more adept the artificial intelligence of these algorithms, the create the risk that it would follow pricing strategies consistent with oligopolistic coordination.

The threats that Dr. Horna cited are, as he pointed out, more probable than actual at this stage. However, they provided fodder for thought, especially in an environment such as the Philippines where aggressive competition law enforcement is still at its infancy, but where the online economy is growing rapidly.

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