Monday, 08 February 2021

Press Release - Digital International Conference "The intersection between Competition and Regulation: Prospects for Reform"

Subject:  Digital International Conference "The intersection between Competition and Regulation: Prospects for Reform" 

The Digital International Conference, organised by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) in collaboration with the Competition LawEconomics and Policy Academy of the HCC, was successfully held on Thursday, February 4, 2021.

Focused on The intersection between Competition and Regulation and the Prospects for Reform, prominent specialists in the field of Competition from Greece and abroad had the opportunity to present their perspectives in the context of four different panels. The conference was addressed by the Vice President of the Government, Panagiotis Pikrammenos, and the Minister of Development and Investments, Adonis Georgiadis.

Mr. Pikrammenos noted that when we talk about independent authorities entrusted with the regulation and supervision of market operation, competition rules are an obvious common denominator and an intersection between the stakeholders, and he continued by saying that a simple overview of the regulatory framework for independent regulatory authorities highlights the fragmentary and often contradictory nature of the specific provisions. The problems are mainly identified in the multiplication over time of regulators with different structures and rules of operation, as well as the uneven allocation of responsibilities between the sector-specific regulators and the Competition Commission. He further emphasised the need for reforms that would clear and streamline the picture, while he also stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation between regulators which will be beneficial to all parties.

For his part, the Minister of Development, Mr. Adonis Georgiadis, underlined that the Ministry of Development is a pioneer in setting up the necessary synergies for the creation of a State ecosystem for the protection of competition, both in terms of regulation and implementation of competition law, where the HCC, in cooperation with the other sector-specific independent authorities, will have a substantial coordinating role with the aim of better protecting the interests of consumers and businesses.

More specifically, in the first panel chaired by the President of the HCC, Professor Ioannis Lianos, the former Prime Minister of Italy and former Commissioner for Competition in the European Commission, Mario Monti, addressed the issue of the organisation of powers vested in the HCC and different regulatory authorities, distinguishing between the opening of markets to competition by an ex ante regulation and the ex post application of national and EU competition rules by competition authorities, stating that Competition Authorities rather than not sector-specific regulators should be the ‘best-placed authorities for the exercise of ex-post enforcement in all sectors of the national economy. He even stressed that any different allocation of responsibilities is not in line with best European practices and will not bring positive results in the strategy to boost openness and growth of the Greek economy, especially in the digital age. He therefore recommended a reform of the Greek legal order, in order to entrust these responsibilities exclusively to the Competition Commission, with the sector-specific regulatory authorities having exclusive competence only for the ex ante regulation. The President of the OECD Competition Committee, Professor Frédéric Jenny, proceeded to a comparative analysis of the situation regarding the allocation of responsibilities in the OECD Member countries and highlighted the specificity of the Greek legal order, stating that only in Greece and Mexico (of the all the OECD countries) the responsibility for the enforcement of competition rules in the telecommunications sector have not been conferred to the Competition Commission. In any case, he said that whichever model is finally opted for, what is important is the existence of cooperation between the Competition Commission and the Regulatory Authorities, indicatively by the creation of a network of regulatory cooperation and competition. 

Martin Cave, Chair of the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) of the United Kingdom, analysed the way in which this cooperation takes place in the United Kingdom and expressed the view that the Competition Authority should not be excluded from any sector of the economy, but should at least enjoy shared competences. The President of the Belgian Competition Authority, Jacques Steenbergen, and the President of the Competition Council of the Republic of Lithuania, Sarunas Keserauskas, had the opportunity to express their views on the optimal interaction between the ex ante regulatory policy and the application of competition law in the utilities sector from a legal-political perspective, stressing the importance of the proper allocation of responsibilities in order to avoid problems and conflicts between regulators and emphasising how important it is for the Competition Authority to have the power to enforce competition rules in all sectors of the economy

In the second panel, moderated by Assimakis Komninos, Partner in White & Case, and dedicated to the topic “Towards a national competition and regulatory network”, the Presidents of Regulatory Authorities, I. Aggelopoulos (RAL), A. Dagoumas (RAE), K. Masselos (EETT), I. Tsiaparikou (RAS) and Ch. Tsitouras (APA), and the President of the HCC (I. Lianos) expressed their views on (and endorsed, in their vast majority) the proposal of the legislation drafting committee for the establishment of a regulatory policy and competition network, and had the opportunity to develop their reasoning, positions and vision regarding the situation in Greece. The Presidents of the Authorities expressed their shared concerns about the need to strengthen the independence and financial autonomy of the authorities as well as their possibility to attract qualified staff.

Ioannis Kokkoris, Professor at Queen Mary University School of Law, moderated the discussion on “An economic perspective on the optimal interplay on ex ante regulation and competition law enforcement: performance indicators and more”, with the participation of Nicholas Economides, Professor at NYU Stern Business School, Christos Genakos, Associate Professor in the Economics Department of the Athens University of Economics and Business,Michal Halperin, President of the Israeli Competition Authority, Tommaso Valletti, Professor at Imperial College London (Former Chief Competition Economist at the European Commission), and Nikos Vettas, Professor at the Athens University of Economics, General Director of IOBE. All participants stressed the particular importance of an appropriate allocation of responsibilities between the regulatory authorities and the Competition Commission,emphasising the best European and international practices, the overwhelming majority of which confer competition law enforcement responsibilities in the telecommunications sector, just like in any other economic sector, to Competition Authorities.

Without exception, all speakers mentioned that a more intensive competition, especially where the rules are applied by a Competition Authority with a remit in all sectors of the economy, leads to more investment and innovation. 

A particular impression was made by the statement of the President of the Israeli Competition Authority, Ms. Michal Halperin, according to which the entry of two additional competitors in Israel’s telecoms market (resulting in the current existence of five companies active in the specific sector led to a significant drop (more than 60%) in mobile data prices in Israel, without this adversely affecting investment in this sector as, on the contrary, it was observed that more intensive competition led to an increase in investment. 

The fourth panel, focused on the topic  From managing the regulatory conundrum to developing regulatory synergies? The rationalization of the Greek economic regulation landscape”, was moderated by the Journalist Tassos Telloglou. The panel was composed of Evangelos Venizelos, Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Law School, former vice-President of the Hellenic Government, Stefanos Manos, former Minister, Georgios Dellis, Professor at the Kapodistrian University of Athens Law School, Ioannis Dryllerakis, Managing Senior Partner at Dryllerakis & Associates, Mihalis Marinos, Professor at the Democritus University of Thrace and Spyridon Vlachopoulos, Professor at the Kapodistrian University of Athens Law School.

The speakers agreed on the need to reform the legal framework governing the operation, not only of the sectoral regulators and their cooperation with the HCC, by streamlining the allocation of responsibilities, but also of all independent authorities, in general, which face staffing problems and stressed the need for greater institutional cooperation between them, through the establishment of a cooperation network like the one proposed by the drafting committee for the amendment of Law 3959/2011.

The President of the HCC, Ioannis Lianos, closed the event by concluding that all participants agreed on the urgent need for reforms, especially in the allocation of competencies in line with international best practices, but also in cooperation and by the exchange of know-how between authorities to create a shared cooperation ecosystem. He went on to stress the need to structure a network of cooperation between the authorities rather than create a new authority for resolving conflicts of competence, as this would not be cost effective, it would put off the issue until some future time, increase bureaucracy and costs for taxpayers and will adversely affect legal certainty for businesses, especially due to technological changes. 

Finally, he said that any reform should be aimed at better serving the citizens, to whom it should be clear to which authority they can turn to solve their problems, noting, for example, that 12% of citizens' complaint letters received last year by the HCC on competition issues concerned the telecoms sector, on which the enforcement of competition rules currently does not fall within the competence of the HCC.

A teleconference video overview is available here.

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