Suggested essay subjects

Are you going to write an essay on competition or public procurement? If so, we can help you with some suggestions of subjects to write about.

The subject suggestions provided here are intended as ideas or inspiration and to show you the types of subject that are of interest to the Competition Authority.

The scope and specialisation of your essay should be decided upon in consultation with your supervisor. The Competition Authority does not monitor which subjects have already been used in essays at universities or other higher education institutions. In other words, any given subject may have already been addressed by several different authors.

Suggested essay subjects with a legal focus

  •  The roles of public authorities and courts within various competition policy systems.
  • The burden of evidence in competition law.
  • The burden of evidence with the application of Chapter 2, Section 7 of the Competition Act (Article 102 of the TFEU).
  • The evidentiary requirements for satisfaction of the agreement criterion (specific coordinated procedure) in Chapter 2, Section 1 of the Competition Act (Article 102 of the TFEU).
  • The implications of the discrimination prohibitions in Chapter 2, Sections 1 and 7 of the Competition Act (Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU).
  • The implications of the prohibitions against tying contracts stated in Chapter 2, Sections 1 and 7 of the Competition Act (Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU).
  • Is abuse of a dominant position a concept that can be applied regardless of the degree of dominance? 
  • Definition of ”market” – the EU’s usage compared with Swedish practice.
  • Purchasing relations in vertical agreements – when do they restrict competition and when do they not?
  • Oligopolistic/collective dominance in the application of the concentrations regulation (Council Regulation 139/2004), Article 102 of the TFEU, and the Swedish Competition Act. 
  • What is required in order for different legal entities to be considered part of the same enterprise in accordance with the definitions found within competition law, and what is required in order for the term ”collective dominance” to be satisfied in situations where the enterprise represents one and the same entity in the marketplace? (cf. Italian Flat Glass)
  • Various aspects of the ”enterprise” concept, see the Transparency Act.
  • Various aspects of relevant markets, e.g.: -geographic -product
  • The relationship of the Competition Act to other legislation, e.g. Freedom of the Press – Labour law- Environmental legislation - Intellectual property law
  • The relationship between intervening with the Competition Act and sector regulations, e.g. energy and telecoms. Which legislation best solves the problems?
  • Competition-restricting collaborations (Chapter 2, Section 1) – Joint brands – Bidding cartels – Legal and illegal competition clauses – Competition clauses in various types of agreements – Exchange of information – Coordinated procedures and ”parallel behaviour”
  • Abuse of dominant position (Chapter 2, Section 7) – Tying contracts – Refusal to supply – Indispensable resources
  • The DVD regions and competition rules - restrictions in the use of DVDs vs. competition rules.
  • Refusal to supply – the Competition Act and the EU, TFEU.
  • Public sales operations: The Competition Act and municipal self-government. 
  • Discrimination in issues concerning one’s own business and an outside enterprise – May a dominant party offer better terms to its own organisation than to another (LLUB/coordinated traffic problems)?
  • Competition law from a legal history perspective.
  • Competition law from a legal philosophy perspective.
  • The language of competition law – a discourse analysis.
  • Competition law from a gender perspective.
  • Competition law and the European Convention on Human Rights, issues regarding self-incrimination, etc.
  • Per se prohibitions and infringement by object – a legal analysis comparing competition law in the USA with that in the EU.
  • Demarcation between infringements by object and result – implications of the GlaxoSmithKline ruling.
  • Parallel imports within the pharmaceutical industry: implications of the GlaxoSmithKline ruling.
  • The European Court’s preliminary rulings in competition law cases –Swedish experiences.
  • The EU Commission as ”amicus curiae” in competition law cases conducted in national courts.
  • The legal foundations for sector investigations conducted by the Commission and national competition authorities – opportunities and limitations.
  • Voluntary measures in company mergers.
  • Ineffectiveness as a result of abuse of a dominant position, i.e. the Göta Court of Appeal’s ruling of 27 April 2001 in Luftfartsverket/SAS.
  • Private enforcement of competition law in Swedish judicial practice.
  • Overpricing.
  • Abuse of a dominant position: implications of the ruling of the Court of First Instance in the Microsoft case.
  • What is required in order for a collective dominant position to be considered to exist? (From Airtours/First Choice to the Court of First Instance’s ruling of 13 July 2006 in Sony BMG.)
  • The new laws on public procurement.
  • Procurement law aspects of OPS/PPP.
  • Public procurement and competition law.
  • Intertrading criteria in Swedish practice.
  • How is ”the country in its entirety” or ”a considerable part of it” defined in a merger context?
  • What is qualitative significance?
  • What is damage to competition? Article 8 of Regulation 1/2003 states that interim actions must be taken if ”the competition risks suffering serious and irreparable damage”. On the other hand this can be interpreted as a contractual relationship between a monopoly and a purchaser where there is no competition – and therefore no competition that can be harmed. However, the competition authority cannot intervene in a provisional case against a monopoly which, for example, refuses to supply if the purchaser (consumer) of the good or service in turn competes in a market, and the competition would be damaging. Is this the case? On the other hand, it is often said that damage to competition is not the same as competitive damage (damage to competitors). What is then damage to competition?
  • The SIEC test in practice, with the Commission’s decision as the starting point.
  • Examination of joint enterprises, in the first instance based on Commission decisions since our own decisions do not contain so much documentation.
  • Analysis of the concepts ”joint control”, ”lasting basis” and ”functioning independently” together with an analysis of coordination between parent companies.
  • Penalties in merger cases. The option to apportion penalties after two or more years. Options to revoke measures involving penalties. This encompasses provisions in both the Competition Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • The enterprise concept in business mergers, under what circumstances does a brand name, for example, constitute an ”enterprise”? Use the Commission’s practices as your starting point.
  • Referrals according to articles 4(4) and 4(5) in the concentration regulation. How has this developed? What has happened with the mergers referred to the Commission? What have the conditions been for referral according to 4(4), wholly of partially?

Suggested essay subjects with an economic focus

  • How does competition function in market X? – All markets are of interest.
  • Competition problems in re-regulated markets.
  • Competition law in regulated markets.
  • Which entry barriers exist in different markets?
  • A study of the literature concerning economic theories for State subsidies. What are the motives for State subsidies? (For example, a one-off subsidy may be required to save businesses that are actually robust, but which ”by chance” have become insolvent, or to avoid ”system crises” like bank crises.) The study could also include an overview of the occurrence of State subsidies and the rules for differentiating ”good” support from ”poor”.
  • Analysis of mergers and acquisitions. Study a merger that has been investigated in depth and subsequently approved by the Competition Authority, with or without conditions (i.e., to sell off production facilities, branches of the business of brand names). What were the arguments of those involved (the Swedish Competition Authority, the parties, competitors, customers) during the discussions? What effect did the merger have on prices and market shares? Examples of acquisitions are: Karlshamn’s purchase of Aarhus, Bilia’s purchase of Enequist, Carlsberg’s purchase of Pripps, Optiroc’s purchase of, NCC’s purchase of Siab, Sparbanken’s purchase of Föreningsbanken.
  • Customer mobility and switching costs. An empirical estimate of switching costs in a market where the customers subscribe to a service, i.e., electricity, fund management, insurance, cable TV, bank services or newspapers. The study could be a response to/expansion of Oz Shy’s study ”A quick and easy method of estimating switching costs” in International Journal of Industrial Organization, 2002. See also report 2009:4 Kundrörlighet - Exempel på hinder för konsumenter inom några viktiga marknader (706 kB). [Customer mobility – examples of consumer obstacles within several important markets].
  • The effect of e-commerce on competition. Can we see any effect on, for example, prices, consumer benefit and availability?
  • Pros and cons of various measurements and methods for measuring competition empirically. For example, market shares, the HHI index, price-cost margins, estimates of entry costs, variations in market shares. See also articles by Jan Boone, such as 'A new way to measure competition', Economic Journal, Vol. 118, 2008.
  • Methods for distributing sole rights or exclusive usage rights in areas such as mobile telephone licenses, licenses for radio and TV broadcasts, take-off and landing rights (”slots”). What are the advantages and disadvantages of auction mechanisms? Can the same methods be used in different markets or must they be tailored to the market? Refer to, for example: Hultkrantz and Nilsson’s ESO report on auctions from 2001, ”Nya bud” [New bids].
  • Within which industries are cartels found? A mapping of international experiences linked to economic theory regarding the industries in which one can expect to encounter cartels. References: The European Commission’s annual competition report and studies by, for example, John Connor, for information regarding where cartels can be found. In text books on industrial organisation/economics you can read about the types of industries where ”collusion” can be expected to regularly occur.
  • Economic analysis of public procurement. See, for example, Nilsson, Bergman and Pyddoke, Den svåra beställarrollen (2005) or studies based on public procurement material. For empirical analyses of tender data, see studies by Sofia Lundberg, Umeå University, and Maria Jakobsson, Stockholm University. See also commissioned research report 2009:7 Open Issues in Public Procurement (950 kB).
  • Purchase coordination and procurement framework agreements.
  • What is PPP/OPS? See, for example, Offentlig Privat Samverkan (360 kB) [Public-Private cooperation] (background report for Konkurrensen i Sverige [Competition in Sweden] 2007, 2007:4) and ”Nya vägar för infrastruktur. Offentlig-privat samverkan” by Jan-Eric Nilsson, 2009, published by SNS.
  • Is price transparency always a good thing?
  • Which parts of the public sector can be exposed to competition? What are the decisive factors? Which parts have been exposed to competition, in Sweden and in other countries? See, for example, Vårda och skapa konkurrens, 2002:2 (1 MB) [Maintaining and creating competition]
  • The EU’s competition regulations are based on the idea that company mergers (”concentrations”) can be stopped if the merger can be expected to harm the consumers in any ”relevant market”, i.e., in a member state. There is no weighing up of the advantages (e.g. synergy wins) that might occur in one or more countries against the disadvantages (e.g. restricted competitions) that might occur in other countries. Sometimes the problem can be addressed through the sale of businesses in the latter group’s countries, but sometimes this is not possible. If this is the case, should the advantages be weighed up against the disadvantages? Is the current model disadvantageous to producers (large companies) in smaller countries? And are consumers in smaller countries overly protected from mergers between major multinational companies that are basically efficient?
  • Effects of loyalty systems (for example, SAS EuroBonus, ICA customer card) and their socioeconomic consequences. In which markets can these be found? Do they have an effect? Reference: Smakar det så kostar det - En utredning med fokus på flygbonusprogram, 2003:1 (799 kB) [You get what you pay for – An investigation into flight bonus programmes]
  • What effect does the restrictive granting of planning permission have on building costs and the development of house prices? A study by Glaeser, Gyourko and Saks, in American Economic Review 2005, found that a major reason behind the price increases for homes in American cities was the difficulties in obtaining planning permission. A Swedish study might study the connection between population increase/immigration, home building and price increases at a municipal level. One possible hypothesis is that immigration into certain municipalities could be met with an equivalent level of home building whilst immigration into other municipalities has just forced up the prices. (One problem is that a lack of homes can lead both to rising prices and a low level of immigration into the community.)
  • Are car prices converging (as regularly measured by the EU) or are prices changing following the introduction of the Euro?
  • Competition on markets, i.e., concession markets.
  • Has the establishment of insurance brokers strengthened competition/increased mobility within the insurance market? From a theoretical economic perspective, what role can insurance brokers be expected to play within the market? Are they acting in the interest of those taking out insurance, or in the interest of the insurance companies? What incentives can the insurance companies use to influence the behaviour of the brokers? Compare the literature regarding the principal-agent problem.
  • Counteracting buyer power and business concentrations.
  • Can intense buyer power mean that a vendor cartel does not constrain competition (counteracting buyer power)?
  • Has the new group exemption for motor vehicles led to increased competition?
  • When public sector stakeholders operate in markets that are exposed to competition there can be a risk that competition is distorted. What is the effect of public sales operations in specific markets? What does economic theory say about these problems? See, for example, The Pros and Cons of Competition in/by the Public Sector 2009 (1 MB), the commissioned research reports 2009:5 Kommunal prissättning i konkurrens - En modifierad underskotts- och självkostnadsprincip (895 kB) och 2010:1 [ Municipal pricing in competition – A modified deficit and self-cost principle] Ett lagförbud för myndigheter att bedriva konkurrensutsatt näringsverksamhet. Kriterier för undantag från förbud (863 kB), [A statutory prohibition against public authorities conducting competition-exposed business activities. Criteria for exceptions from the prohibition.] and literature on “ mixed oligopolies”.
  • In several areas users are given the opportunity to choose operators, something that is intended to stimulate competition on quality. One example of this is the free school reform, another is the introduction of the Act on System of Choice (LOV). How does this work in practice? See, for example, reports in the Swedish Competition Authority’s report series, the ESO study ”Lika skola med olika resurser?” [Same schools, different resources] etc.
  • Competition policy from a behavioural economics perspective. What can we learn from the findings of behavioural economic with regard to how competition works in different markets and what implications might this have for competition policy? See, for example, Robert Östling’s report "Beteendeekonomi och konsumentpolitik" [Behavioural economics and consumer policy] to the Ministry for Integration and Gender Equality, 2009, and Competition Policy International Journal’s themed edition, no. 1, 2010.
  • Several countries have ”leniency programmes” where fines or other penalties are mitigated for cartel members who provide the competition authorities with important information. How well does this work in various countries, what are the differences and what are the reasons for this? What affects the incentives to apply for leniency? (See the literature on leniency).

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