Reinventing the economic constitution
: how and why competition authorities in Western Europe have turned to cooperative enforcement styles

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Competition authorities possess an enormous variety of enforcement tools to regulate restrictive agreements between firms, abuse of dominance as well as mergers and acquisitions. How do they use their toolbox when they identify a problem in the market or a violation of the law? By investigating the enforcement styles of competition authorities, this thesis finds that competition authorities increasingly settle cases with the private sector. As a result, companies file fewer appeals against agency decisions, which leads to a partial de-judicialisation of competition enforcement. This trend towards more cooperation poses a puzzle for research in regulatory policy: why would competition authorities give up some of their independence and cooperate with the private sector to resolve cases?

After describing the trend towards cooperation with the private sector, this thesis puts forward the argument that cooperation is driven by demands for administrative efficiency from political actors as well as agencies’ self-interest to avoid litigation. Whilst this explanation broadly holds across the case studies investigated by this thesis (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France), it is embedded in separate pathways towards more cooperation. More specifically, highly diverse national political economic legacies have neither inhibited nor enhanced the application of cooperative enforcement styles. Although competition authorities increasingly coordinate policy at the supra- and international level, there is limited evidence for policy diffusion, as enforcement styles are driven by domestic considerations.
Date of Award1 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChristel Koop (Supervisor)

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