Friday, September 25, 2009
Long-Term Contracts and Competition on European Gas Markets - Has the Commission Struck the Right Balance
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
ABSTRACT: This article examines whether the balance currently struck by the European Commission between long-term contracting and the introduction of competition will ensure a sustainable level of competition on European gas markets, i.e. competition that not impedes investments. It examines whether this balance – which can be derived from a recently closed antitrust case against Distrigas – takes proper account of the benefits of long-term contracting. The current balance recognizes the possibility of efficiencies related to long-term contracts. This article uses the transaction cost economics framework to assess this balance, because this science of contract explicitly focuses on contracts and their ex-post properties. It turns out that the Commission’s balance is inadequate because the advantages of long-term contracting in terms of mitigating opportunistic regulatory behaviour are not acknowledged. One likely consequence is that the Commission will intervene, and force adaptations to long-term contracts, more often than efficient.