On Thursday, November 1, 2012, at Athénée Palace Hilton, Le Diplomat Ballroom (an UNESCO heritage monument), the Romanian Competition Council Report „The Romanian competition environment – developments in key sectors” was launched.
It is well known that the Romanian Competition Council is an autonomous administrative body aimed at protecting and stimulating competition in order to ensure a normal competitive environment, with a view towards the consumers’ interests. Competition Council’s role has two major dimensions: a corrective dimension – restoring and maintaining a normal competitive environment and a preventive dimension – monitoring markets and observing the behaviour of the actors participating in such markets (http://www.consiliulconcurentei.ro/en/about-us.html ).
The accumulated experience, improving the methodology for analysis, the impact of the promotion of the competition culture on the relevant markets etc. offers the Competition Council Report from October 2012 (The evolution of competition in key sectors) a triple quality:
– confirming the adaptation to the structure and evolutions of the situations met;
– displaying a clear flexibility in using certain methodological guidelines;
– a better orientation in terms of progress of the analysis according to the nature of different aspects met in the process of solving.
Certainly, continuing this undertaking in this manner, evaluating by comparison the competition from the already analyzed sectors and introducing new sectors of increasing importance for the national economy, the effective translation of the responsible committment in better functioning of the institutional mechanism.
The proper objective of the competition policy is the promotion of the consumer welfare (applying the consumer-welfare standard). It is necessary that the importance of adequately applying the economic analysis to competition rules is well understood by integrating both law and economics that competitions authorities should focus on, because finally most of the decisions taken by are essentially economic decisions. In applying competition policy it is essential to look at the facts, but the analytical framework of the economic theory is essential to sound competition policy enforcement. It is also very important to identify consumer issues and educate consumers, because consumers are recognized by most businesses “as the life blood they are”. And…“like competition, consumer protection issues have gone global” (http://www.crd-aida.ro/2007/03/ ). It is not by chance that Associate Professor Costel Stanciu, President of the Consumers’ Protection Association Romania (APC Romania, a Founding Member of the Romanian Distribution Committee) is also a Member of the Consultative Council of the Romanian Competition Authority.
This is a good time to reflect again (http://www.crd-aida.ro/2007/09/romanian-competition-council%e2%80%99s-10th-anniversary/ ) on progress made toward building a sound institutional framework, in designing effective competition regime, in enforcing the competition law and also looking on the windows of opportunity provided for an in-depth substantive European and global conversation on competition policy and acting accordingly. Ten years ago, in 2002, the annual Report of the Romanian Competition Council has been sent to all key stakeholders in Romanian economy, including, for the first time, academics, in order to co-operate better with all our Universities in ensuring the adequate training of the future lawyers and economists (including also “the long life learning”) who will join the “Competition Family”. Competition policy approach in the context of present international challenges it is supposed to consider: national objectives (competitive markets; consumers’ protection); international challenges (globalization of markets; economical disparities between countries). Competition policy is one of the main issues discussed within the EU Commission, OECD, WTO, UNCTAD and so on. And as markets are complex and operate in real time, there is a real need to consider the centrality of the consumer and understand: how the market functions; what encourages collusion and undermines competition; what means dealing with consumers in markets; what means dealing distributional equity and not only improving allocative efficiency: “Pareto efficiency can be seen in conjunction with a Nash equilibrium” (“The consumer guide to competition: A practical handbook”, Consumers International, March 2003, pp. 7-8, 10, 12, 19, 24-25, 31-39). There is a continuous debate about the goal of competition policy, “over whether consumer or total (consumer plus producer) welfare is the right standard for competition policy”. Well-known professors like Michael Katz and Joseph Farrell or like Dr. Kenneth Heyer “consider this debate over using consumer versus total welfare as the guiding principle for merger analysis”, Kenneth Heyer, for example, “favoring a strict focus on total welfare” (Richard Schmalensee – “From the Editor: Autumn 2006”, eccp.esapience.org/). Competition (the process), argues Heyer, is the most effective means to promote consumer welfare and efficiency (the goal) is a cornerstone of sound antitrust policy (“Statement of Kenneth Heyer on behalf of the United States Department of Justice. Antitrust Modernization Commission. Hearings on the Treatment of Efficiencies in Merger Enforcement”, November 17, 2005). Within this framework, allow us to add that we have to take a closer look at the so-called “Attention Diversion Ratio” (ADR, defined by Michael Katz as the percentage of effort that should have been spent on competitive effects but instead was spent on defining the relevant market).
But we also have to pay attention to some ideas expressed recently, on October 28, 2012, by Richard Possner (Is Banking Unusually Prone to Risky Practices, The Becker-Possner Blog, 10/28/2012, http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/ ) to the fact that “Darwinian evolution is toward fitness rather than goodness” (so, to confuse fitness with goodness is a “a big, though common, error”) within the “many analogies between biological evolution and commercial markets” (“competition” and “equilibrium” being important both in evolutionary biology and in economics). Richard Possner recommends a fruitful application of Darwinian theory to competitive markets, taking into account that: “to determine whether a market is working well from an overall social standpoint, one has to understand the environment, and the business behavior that best enables a firm to survive and thrive in it.”
(From right to left) Jonathan Scheele (Member of the Consultative Council of the Romanian Competition Authority; EU Visiting Fellow, St Antony’s College, the most cosmopolitan of the seven graduate colleges of the University of Oxford, specialising in international relations, economics, politics and history of particular parts of the world (http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/ ), Theodor Valentin Purcarea (Member of the Consultative Council of the Romanian Competition Authority, and Professor at the Romanian-American University), Gheorghe Oana (Vice President of the Romanian Court of Accounts), Nicolae Turcu (Vice President of the Romanian Legislative Council, Chief of the Department of Private Law), and in the back, Marian Tutilescu (Quaestor-in-chief, Head of the European Affairs, International Relations and Schengen Department, Ministry of Administration and Interior), and Gheorghe Oprescu (Member of the Consultative Council of the Romanian Competition Authority, and Professor at Politehnica University of Bucharest ).