Brands, Product Differentiation and EU Competition Law
The paper explores how EU competition law has integrated so far the concept of brands in different areas of enforcement. Although EU competition law has engaged in multiple instances with branding and product differentiation, brands do not yet constitute an operational concept in EU competition law. This is due to an important uncertainty as to the normative choices that need to be made with regard to the relation between brands and the formation of consumer preferences. The concerns raised by retailer power and the development of private labels also indicate that the existing economic theory on product differentiation may not also provide a complete picture on the effects of brands on the competitive process and ultimately on consumers. Competition law will also need to tackle the issues raised by the development of ‘social branding’ and the dialogic interaction between brand owners and consumers in the constitution of their brand identity.