Daniel Zimmer (Bonn): Between economic theory and the pursuit of legal-cultural values: Regulatory approaches to monitoring algorithms


The control and regulation of major Internet companies is one of the greatest legal policy issues of our time. The operator of a global search engine, the leading social network, or the world’s largest online-trading platform may indeed know from an analysis of previous activities that a certain consumer is willing to pay more than others for fashionable clothes; it may know from an analysis of e-mail correspondence that its negotiating partner has an appointment in London on the weekend and therefore needs to book a flight there; it may know of an existing illness that increases its negotiating partner’s need for certain medications. Suppliers in online trade can use technical programs to analyze and maximize users’ buying power and willingness to pay. Someone searching for clothing online using an expensive smartphone is offered goods for higher prices than other potential customers using smartphones that signal a lower buying power. Anyone showing interest in the same flight connection two or three times is offered a ticket for a higher price than at first click since their continued interest signals an increased willingness to pay. A totally individualized offer that maximizes every single consumer’s willingness to pay – one could argue – casts doubt upon the merits of a competition-driven economy: It is generally seen as a virtue of the market economy that vendors compete for customers by making them favorable offers.

In his lecture, Prof. Dr. Zimmer will investigate the question of whether the ever-expanding collection and analysis of data constitutes a development that triggers a need for a new type of regulation. This topic has relevance for several culturally-determined branches of law (anti-discrimination law, data protection/personality law, consumer protection law) as well as for economic theory and competition law.

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Dr. Daniel Zimmer is Managing Director of the Institute for Commercial and Economic Law as well as of the Center for Advanced Studies in Law and Economics (CASTLE) at the University of Bonn. He completed his studies in Law from 1979 to 1984 at the Universities of Mainz, Lausanne, and Göttingen. Following graduation, he pursued a legal traineeship in Celle, Germany, as well as his Master’s studies (LL.M.) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1991, Daniel Zimmer received his doctoral degree in Law from the University of Göttingen, where subsequently worked as a research assistant. After completing his habilitation in 1996 on the topic “International Company Law – The Conflict of Laws of Companies and Its Relation to International Capital Market Law and to International Enterprise Law”, he was named University Professor at the Ruhr-University Bochum. Additionally, he was a visiting professor at the University of Lausanne from 1999 to 2001. In 2001, he joined the Institute for Commercial and Economic Law at the University of Bonn. Daniel Zimmer has also served as a member on various commissions, including the German Monopolies Commission and the German Council for Private International Law’s special “International Company Law” Commission. He has also been involved in EU Commission’s Forum on Auditor Liability. Furthermore, he has been a research fellow at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin since 2016 and a research affiliate at the Reinhard Selten Institute in Bonn/Cologne since 2018.  

Since April 2019, Prof. Dr. Daniel Zimmer has been a fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” in Bonn.