The Global Dominance of European Competition Law Over American Antitrust Law

Competition Policy and Antitrust and Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Anu Bradford, Adam S. Chilton, Katerina Linos and Alexander Weaver


Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 16, Issue 4, pp. 731-766, 2019


The European Union (EU) and the United States differ in their approach to competition law. Worldwide, more nations emulate the EU's approach. 

Policy Relevance

Worldwide, regulatory standards are converging on a European standard. 

Main Points

  • EU competition law authorities are more aggressive than American antitrust agencies; the European Commission fined Google $2.3 billion for favoring its own services in search results, but the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded that Google's behavior benefitted consumers and took no action.
  • Both the United States and the EU urge developing nations to adopt competition laws similar to their own.
  • In deciding whether to imitate the EU or the United States, countries choose between a system that trusts in governments' ability to improve outcomes by intervention (the EU model), or trusts in markets' ability to self-correct (US model).
  • Analysis of data from 126 countries shows that most nations have adopted competition laws like those of the EU.
    • The EU requires countries seeking trade or political ties to adopt competition laws.
    • Nations generally will follow the most stringent rules to achieve universal compliance.
    • The EU offers detailed rules readily copied by nations lacking technical expertise.
    • The EU approach allows for goals other than consumer welfare, such as protection of small firms.
  • Although Europe’s geopolitical influence is waning, the EU is winning the global regulatory race; the study of law and economics has had more influence within the United States than abroad.
  • Convergence on one regulatory standard is not always beneficial.
    • Convergence reduces experimentation.
    • Nations may converge on a flawed standard.
  • The European Union itself is moving closer to the United States, giving more weight to consumer welfare in recent competition cases; meanwhile, other nations have applied questionable aspects of EU law, such as rules supporting cases against excessive pricing.

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