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LAW8576 : Law, Digital Markets and Competition

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Ben Farrand
  • Lecturer: Dr Jonathan Galloway, Dr David Reader
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this course is to provide students with a cutting edge understanding of the legal, social and economic challenges created by increasingly digital economies. Focusing on the establishment, harmonisation and maturing of ‘Digital Markets’, this module touches upon a range of different areas of contemporary interest in an area of rapid technological and legal adaptation. Rather than being overly formalistic in its approach to the regulation of online transactions, it instead considers the formation of digital markets and the role of law in facilitating, structuring or correcting them. While it provides general categories to be considered each year, such as the formation of online contracts, the use of digital currencies and issues of competition law, the module is designed to be highly adaptive, focusing on the problems or developments occurring within a particular year. For this reason, this module draws from a wide range of subject experts in the Law School, as well as being supplemented by guest lecturers talking about areas within their research or practice expertise. The key objectives of this module are as follows: -

1.       To introduce students to the concept of ‘digital’ markets, and the increasing interconnectedness, interdependence and variances between different national and regional regimes;
2.       To provide students with a dedicated case study in the form of the EU’s advanced policies and projects on the development of a Digital Single Market for good and remotely provided services, and the underlying ideas informing that system;
3.       To consider specific examples of issues arising in the formation and execution of digital contracts;
4.       To explore the development of digital currencies and different approaches to regulation;
5.       To consider issues of competition arising in digital markets;
6.       To discuss the ways in which illicit digital markets develop;
7.       To assess developing areas of interest, such as ‘gigification’ in the context of digital services, and cyber-security concerns around remote working post-Covid.

Outline Of Syllabus

The proposed outline of the syllabus is as follows, with the proviso that case studies will change each year dependent upon current issues, controversies and developments.

1.       An introduction to digital markets, neoliberalism, ordoliberalism and varieties of capitalism
2.       The EU’s Digital Single Market – a case study in market construction through law?
3.       Digital Contracts I
4.       Digital Contracts II
5.       The law and economics of digital currencies
6.       Digital competition I
7.       Digital competition II
8.       Illicit digital markets – from counterfeiting to drugs
9.       Exploitative digital markets – the gig economy and casualised work
10.       Remote working in digital markets – crime and security

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00In person classes (FLEX: can be moved to synchronous small group teaching if required)
Guided Independent StudySkills practice120:153:00Multiple Choice Quizzes to allow students to self-test understanding of factual module content.
Guided Independent StudySkills practice41:004:004 one-hour Canvas-facilitated activities to familarise students with key theories, ideas & concepts.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1071:00107:00Own reading and revision of substantive module content, combined with directed reading.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time41:004:00Four one-hour long Q&A sessions to allow for all students to ask questions regarding module content.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The teaching methods have been adapted for delivery in the post-COVID environment and are based on the presumption that in person lectures, seminars and in-person drop-in sessions will be possible but that this shall need to be supplemented by making alternative arrangements under ‘FLEX’ in case of the possibility of more limited possibilities for on Campus teaching).

Small group teaching has been determined to be the most effective mode of content delivery for PGT students, allowing for a blend of instructor-led discussion and student-led group work, which is preferable to relying predominantly on lectures for student contact. The four one-hour long online activities will provide students with opportunities to test their knowledge and understanding of course content through four activities – the first, developing their understanding of ‘varieties of capitalism’ and how they relate to digital markets, the second on reading non-legal sources such as policy papers and reports, the third on interpreting an academic article, and the fourth (which leads into the final assessment), which involves drafting a short research proposal that then is used as part of the final summative assessment.

The scheduled online Q&As allow for students to ‘drop in’ and ask questions concerning course content, and the MCQ activities provide students with instantaneous formative feedback on their understanding of substantive factual course content.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal2M20A short research proposal used as the basis for approval of the final research project. 500 words
Research paper2M80A small research project devised by the student, on one of the topics covered during the module. 3000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The formative assessment is provided in the form of the final Canvas activity, which provides students with information regarding the drafting of a research proposal, posing students with questions and then providing feedback on their answers. This session goes over how to design a research proposal on the topic of Digital Markets and the Law, complementing the comprehensive support given in the Research Skills and Methods module. This activity builds into the first summative assessment, which requires students to write a short 500-word research proposal worth 20% of the final grade, which discusses what area the student wishes to cover, the research question guiding the project, and the methodology and methods to be used to answer that question. This is also used to approve the final research project for the module.

The final summative component is a 3,000-word assessed research project. Drawing from the feedback on the assessed research proposal, students will develop and undertake a small research project in one of the areas of study covered by the module on the basis of a chosen research question. Students will be expected to go beyond ‘traditional’ doctrinal assessment, engaging with a wider body of materials (as discussed throughout the course), to provide a more holistic understanding of the interactions between political economy, the creation and regulation of digital markets, and the legal challenges posed by new market incursions.

Reading Lists