Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media recently discussed the possibility of creating a new pan-European regulator. The proposal forms part of the Commission’s current review of the regulatory framework that was introduced in July 2002.
International law firm Eversheds argue that such a move could benefit major players in the market by ensuring consistency of approach across the 25 Member States and help regulators that lack the experience and technical knowledge necessary to address failures in their respective markets. However, the proposal requires more detailed consideration, not least to assess whether the current lack of consistency between the regulators could be addressed in a more proportionate way:
Elizabeth Wilks-Wood, from Eversheds’ telecoms group argues that a single pan-European regulator may not satisfy the needs of all players in the market:
“It would be extremely difficult for a ‘super-regulator’ to have the detailed knowledge of the market in individual Member States, which is essential for effective regulatory decision-making. Without this ‘local’ knowledge, the regulator could lack credibility and may find it difficult to gain support for its decisions.
A pan-European regulator would add yet another layer of complexity within the already complex regulatory framework. Commissioner Reding would like the current national regulators to continue, but it is not clear where the boundaries of responsibility between the national and super regulator would lie.
Increased competition in the communications market has signalled greater investment, choice and value for money for the consumer. The European regulatory regime introduced in 2002 aimed to encourage greater de-regulation and foster competition, but it is not clear how the creation of another regulatory authority would be consistent with this objective.
Ofcom was one of the first regulators to complete the market reviews to examine conditions in the market and impose regulation where necessary. However, even though the regime is over 4 years old, some regulators are yet to even start their market review process. If the Commission is concerned about the lack of consistency, it already has the power to take enforcement action against ‘reluctant’ Member States, and so it is not clear that a super regulator is a proportionate solution” .
Eversheds concluded that while it is pleased to see the Commission’s continued commitment to achieving a creating a European environment where competition can flourish, it is not clear that the proposed solution would be the best for the industry.