Don’t Blame Me, It’s the Algorithm!?
After the market exit of Air Berlin, customers bemoaned Lufthansa’s price increases for domestic flights within Germany. Allegations of an abuse of market dominance were raised as well. At the moment, it is not clear if these allegations can be substantiated. If Lufthansa were called upon to answer such accusations, it would surely not convince its accusers by arguing that it merely used an autonomous pricing algorithm that determined ticket prices. Companies remain responsible for their behaviour even if they employ technical means, and the current legal framework is sophisticated enough to cover phenomena like the use of algorithms. In order to evaluate Lufthansa’s pricing policy, abusive pricing criteria would apply. Hence, competition authorities could look at ticket prices without even considering Lufthansa’s pricing algorithm. In any case, there does not appear to be a need for legislative changes. Competition law already seems to be fit to cope with this kind of issue in the digital world.
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kühling, LL.M., holds a Chair at the University of Regensburg and is a Member of the German Monopolies Commission.