Saturday, May 22, 2010
The Relationship between Competition Authorities and Sectoral Regulators: An International-Comparative Perspective
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
ABSTRACT: The relationship between competition authorities and sectoral regulators is one of the most important, yet most difficult and controversial topics we have around. The debate that was started in the 1990s in particular on how the parameters in this relationship should be set has never been settled; in many respects, the debate has even become more heated.
The purpose behind this article is to shed some fresh light on the topic and to present an international-comparative perspective on this important relationship. Among the issues which the article considers are: the differences and similarities between the instruments of competition law and special sectoral regulation; areas of potential overlap and conflict between competition enforcement and access, economic, and technical regulation; situations of concurrency between competition authorities and sectoral regulators and the exact role a competition authority should perform in this context, be that an enforcement, a supervisory or an advocacy function; the different ‘options’ or ‘models’ which may be adopted by countries (and their competition authorities) when determining the question of sectoral regulation and the application of competition law in the sectors; and the role of government in sectoral regulation.
Specific reference is made throughout the article to detailed examples from practice taken from different regimes around the world, most notably: the USA, Australia, the UK and EU Member States. In doing so, the article seeks to place the topic in its proper (wider) context of institutional cultures, the socio-economic environment prevailing in countries and the public policy choices made by governments and public authorities (including competition authorities) more specifically.
The article concludes with a set of reflections and recommendations which hopefully would be useful in understanding the manner in which a competition authority should design its policy approach to the topic in order to respond effectively to changes in time and in the economic reality of the sectors.