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The potential for antitrust fines involving algorithms & AI

Almost 6 years ago, we wrote a blog post querying whether pricing algorithms might be the European Commission's next antitrust target. 

In the years since, although the implications of increasingly advanced algorithms, and even AI-based software, have often been discussed in the competition law press, case law on this topic has been relatively sparse.

It was interesting therefore to see news of the Korea Fair Trade Commission fining Kakao Mobility almost 19 million euros for "secretly manipulating its algorithm on its mobile application to give preferential treatment to its own affiliated drivers" (see a press article here (subscription required) and the original Korean announcement here). 

The decision may well be subject to an appeal. However, as the importance of algorithms and AI-based techniques continues to grow, it serves as a useful reminder to companies operating in that space to ensure that they consider competition law during the development process.

[Kakao Mobility] launched an artificial intelligence-based feature to its Kakao T Blue app in 2019 allowing users to request drivers – franchisee and non-franchisee – through their smartphones for 1,000 won (€0.73). The company “secretly implemented” an algorithm to drive calls to affiliated drivers and exclude or reduce unprofitable short-distance rides of less than one kilometre, the KFTC found.


artificial intelligence, competition law, technology