Siphoning Rents and Shaping Preferences: Regulating the Dark Side of Personalized Transactions

Horst Eidenmüller (Oxford)

Berliner Seminar Recht im Kontext
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Juristische Fakultät, Raum E44/46
Bebelplatz 2, 10099 Berlin

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The rise of big data and artificial intelligence creates novel und unique opportunities for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) transactions. Much of the existing literature on the effects of these technological developments assumes that businesses will make a “benign” use of these new opportunities, offering consumers more of the goods they really want at prices they can afford.

By contrast, in joint work with Gerhard Wagner, I am looking at the dark side of personalized transactions. Businesses personalize prices, siphoning rents from consumers. More importantly, they shape consumers’ preferences, locking them into consumption patterns and lifestyles suggested by what many others are doing and choosing.

Is there a case to be made for regulating personalized B2C transactions, or does self-help suffice to contain the negative effects of such transactions? If legal intervention is justified, how should the law respond? These are two important questions that we analyze in our joint paper.

Horst Eidenmüller was born in Munich, Germany. He obtained an LLM at Cambridge University (1989) and a PhD from Munich University (1994) after working for McKinsey & Co. in the 1990s. After his Habilitation in 1998, he was a law professor at the University of Münster from 1999 until 2003. From 2003 to 2014, he held the Chair for Private Law, German, European and International Company Law at Munich University. This position was designated as a research professorship under the excellence scheme of the German Research Foundation from 2007 to 2011. Eidenmüller took up the Freshfields Chair for Commercial Law and a Professorial Fellowship at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, in 2015. His main research areas are contract law, company and bankruptcy law, and alternative dispute resolution. He is known for his economic and empirical analysis of important problems in these fields.