Contractual Leverages in Multi-sided Platforms: A Legal and Economic Analysis under EU Competition Law

Yibo Li (University of Antwerp)


As multi-sided platforms proliferate and wield considerable sway across diverse sectors, their tactics increasingly obfuscate actions that potentially compromise the equitable distribution among participants within ecosystems they engender. One of these tactics, as identified by this paper, is to stipulate contractual terms between the platform themselves and its users, which redistribute the contractual rights and obligations, favouring a particular group while exploiting the economic dependence of another group. This paper conceptualizes such tactics as ‘contractual leverages’ and articulates their features, namely deviations from default rules, differential treatments based on economic dependence, and a zero-sum nature. Furthermore, this paper delineates the tangible manifestation of contractual leverage and its impact on different user groups within the platform ecosystem and highlights the vulnerability of users manifesting economic dependence on the platform. Lastly, this paper reviews the EU legal framework governing such contractual arrangements, and examines the multi-step legal evaluation of proportionality that determines their fairness. The paper emphasizes the importance of striking a balance of interests, ensuring that no significant imbalance exists in the distribution of interests among all user groups within a platform.

Download the file

©2023 Italian Society of Law and Economics. All rights reserved.