, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 105-140
Date: 08 Oct 2010

Concerted Practices and the Presence of Obligations: Joint Action in Competition Law and Social Philosophy

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Abstract

This paper considers whether, and if so how, the modelling of joint action in social philosophy – principally in the work of Margaret Gilbert and Michael Bratman – might assist in understanding and applying the concept of concerted practices in European competition law. More specifically, the paper focuses on a well-known difficulty in the application of that concept, namely, distinguishing between concerted practice and rational or intelligent adaptation in oligopolistic markets. The paper argues that although Bratman’s model of joint action is more psychologically plausible and phenomenologically resonant, its less demanding character also makes it less useful than Gilbert’s in our understanding of the legal concept of concerted practice and in dealing with the above difficulty. The paper proceeds in two parts: first, a discussion of the concept of concerted practices in European competition law; and second, a discussion of Gilbert and Bratman’s models of joint action, including a comparative assessment of their ability to provide an evidentiary target and an evidentiary platform for concerted practices.