AAI Advisory Board members William S. Comanor recently published The Issue of Consumer Welfare in the Government Complaints against Google & Facebook with Donald I. Baker in The Antitrust Bulletin.
Although the Consumer Welfare doctrine has served as an important feature of antitrust liability since the 1980s, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have downplayed this factor in their respective Google and amended Facebook complaints. Each complaint makes a general reference to this issue, but with few detailed factual allegations. A complicating factor is that the defendants have gained dominant market positions by providing valuable digital services at little or no direct charge to consumers. In this paper, we emphasize that the services offered by the two platforms embody quality as well as price dimensions, both of which can affect consumers positively. Indeed, quality product dimensions may become even more important to consumers in a zero price environment. We construct a simple economic model using privacy as a significant quality attribute through which these issues can be explored, and then draw some appropriate policy conclusions.