“When the late Jon Tennant and I filed our formal complaint to the European Commission in 2018, in which we detailed how scholarly journal publishing was not a market but a collection of small monopolies, we had no idea that the EC was already well aware of that fact and saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, their reply at the time surprised us, when it indicated that the EC concurred with our description of scholarly journals being collections of monopolies, but saw levers for regulation/mitigation elsewhere.
Today, I have been privy to the informal brief written by a legal expert of the GFF mentioned above. It cites two prior EC instances from 2003 and 2015 where the EC had already acknowledged the lack of a genuine market due to the lack of substitutability (the reply to our complaint is thus just one in a long list of such documents acknowledging the lack of competition in scholarly publishing)….
The quote here is an example of how the EC is well aware of the conflicting interests between readers and libraries on the one hand (demand-side) and publishers (supply-side) on the other, while at the same time expressing a clear prioritization (“confirmed the relevance”) of the interests of the supply-side over the interests of the demand-side. The dysfunctionality of the current situation for readers and libraries is understood, acknowledged and dismissed by the EC as “not relevant” – very similar to the reply we received for our formal complaint. In this particular quote, a fig-leaf is offered by stating that the big publishers cover many scholarly fields, leading to each library having contracts with several publishers, giving the superficial impression that there would be several suppliers in a “supply-side” market. The sentence just prior, however, makes it clear that this is, in fact, not really a genuine market, but one that exists only on paper, solely for regulatory purposes….”