Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Competition enforcement in Spain

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A member of the Board of the Spanish Competition Authority said a few weeks ago that the institution is on the verge of a dismantling process. The statement was made in relation to a draft law that aims at merging the competition authority with sector regulators in order to create synergies, avoid inconsistencies and save some money (the latter being, of course, the current overarching principle of all Spanish policies).

Although I could see some usefulness in discussing some of the proposed changes, most Spanish practitioners, the members of the CNC, and the current sector regulators are not big fans of the current hastily drafted draft Law. We personally tend to share some concerns with regard to the current version of the project.

I have not always agreed with the CNC’s way of doing some things, but disagreeing with them is part of my job. Overall, however, the CNC has done a good job, and it has certainly increased the public awareness about competition law in Spain to unprecedented levels. Attempting to save some pennies by reshuffling an efficient (and “profitable”) organization may not be a smart move.

At the political level there’s the question of whether this reform should be one of the countries’ priorities right now. From a strictly legal point of view, blurring the frontiers between the applicable standards, attitudes and instruments used in competition enforcement (a sanctioning system with criminal features) and those characterizing sector regulation can be -if not well thought out- very problematic.

We’ll develop our views in a few days (consider this as an appetizer); for now, it suffices to observe that the uncertainty brought by the prospect of immediate changes (which are also reportedly aimed at expected to affect the members of the Board) is significantly affecting enforcement. Whereas in the past we branded the CNC as “overzealous“, the tide has now turned and the Spanish watchdog seems to be on a sleeping mode waiting mood. (yes, we like complaining no matter what).

The latest investigation concerns bullfighters. No kidding: see here.

As if I hadn’t heard enough clichés about Spain over the past few weeks!

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

25 June 2012 at 12:52 pm

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