The value of Bitcoin has fluctuated wildly since its inception more than a decade ago. Even in the last month, the price of a single Bitcoin (approximately) has dropped from £30,000, down to £20,000, before jumping up £32,000, buoyed by the news that Tesla has invested $1.5bn in the currency and plans to start accepting it as a form of payment.
Surges and falls in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies often hit the news. However, recently there has been much less discussion about the underlying technology that cryptocurrencies are typically built on, blockchains.
Blockchains are yet to receive much attention in the world of antitrust, but the technology does presents a number of competition law issues that may emerge in cases or investigations in the future. A cartel could use a private blockchain to ensure that each member is sticking to the terms of any anti-competitive agreement, or more simply to ensure information transparency. Similarly, a private blockchain that becomes essential for competing in a market could lead to abuse of dominance issues arising around pricing on transaction fees or access to the blockchain.
As competition regulators currently grapple with issues around digital platforms and multi-sided markets, with cryptocurrencies continuing to increase in popularity, I wonder if blockchains will emerge as a new antitrust challenge in a few years' time.
Tesla says it has invested $1.5 billion in the bitcoin cryptocurrency. The electric car manufacturer filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC this morning, and revealed the new bitcoin investment. Tesla says it will also “begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future.”