Could a tweet get you investigated for a breach of competition law? Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, has said that it could.
Responding to a tweet suggesting it was a shame that competition complaints couldn't be submitted over Twitter, Vestager responded by saying that the case of the International Skating Union was considered following tweets from speed skater Mark Tuitert.
Well. In a way you can: We took the case of International Skating Union after tweets from @marktuitert - amazing speed skater.— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) July 28, 2018
The beginning may be a tweet, the rest of a case is so many other things - to find evidence and ensure due process.
There are a variety of ways in which the European Commission and National Competition Authorities (such as the CMA in the UK) can become aware of potential competition law infringements, including; leniency applications from a participant in a cartel, information from a whistleblower, the opening of an own-initiative investigation or a complaint.
Complaints from those harmed by anti-competitive practices have traditionally been more than 280 characters in length, but with competition authorities increasingly having a presence of social media, perhaps it was a natural next step for them to become aware of potential issues via websites such as Twitter. With an increasing focus on protecting vulnerable consumers Twitter and Facebook provide a direct link between competition authorities and those who might have been harmed but who might otherwise lack the resources or knowledge to bring an effective formal complaint.
As a result, businesses should not be as quick as they might have been in the past to dismiss posts on social media by disgruntled consumers/users. As Vestager makes clear, a tweet is not enough by itself, but it could very well alert the authorities to practices of which they were otherwise unaware.