Wednesday, July 17, 2019
ABSTRACT: This paper discusses whether self-learning price-setting algorithms can coordinate their pricing behavior to achieve a collusive outcome that maximizes the joint profits of the firms using them. Although legal scholars have generally assumed that algorithmic collusion is not only possible but also exceptionally easy, computer scientists examining cooperation between algorithms as well as economists investigating collusion in experimental oligopolies have countered that coordinated, tacitly collusive behavior is not as rapid, easy, or even inevitable as often suggested. Research in experimental economics has shown that the exchange of information is vital to collusion when more than two firms operate within a given market. Communication between algorithms is also a topic in research on artificial intelligence, in which some scholars have recently indicated that algorithms can learn to communicate, albeit in somewhat limited ways. Taken together, algorithmic collusion currently seems far more difficult to achieve than legal scholars have often assumed and is thus not a particularly relevant competitive concern at present. Moreover, there are several legal problems associated with algorithmic collusion, including questions of liability, of auditing and monitoring algorithms, and of enforcing competition law.