Competition law and corporate social responsibility : a review of the special responsibility of dominant firms in competition law

29 Oct 2020

Few concepts aptly captures competition law’s expectations on firms with substantial market share or market power than ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’, made popular in American movie Spider Man. Although Spider Man helped made the concept popular, its true origin may be religious teachings and ancient cultural wisdoms. The Bible, King James Version, warns that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”. In African culture, the value or principle of Ubuntu, with its emphasis on common humanity and good, counsels that one person should not thrive at the expense, or to the exclusion, of others. The relevance and application of these principles or values to commercial relationships and rules of trade regulation, in particular competition law, is the object of this paper. In some competition law jurisdictions, abuse of dominance rules recognise, explicitly or impliedly, that firms with substantial market share or market power have a special ‘duty’ or ‘responsibility’ to the market. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the link between certain elements of this special duty or responsibility and Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”). It is the argument of this paper that the principle of special responsibility, as applied in competition and abuse of dominance law, has elements of CSR.