Sep 11, 2014
The first competition law was passed in 1889 in Canada, followed shortly by the United States in 1890. Subsequent expansion of competition regimes was slow — it wasn’t until 1957 that the European Union established an antitrust policy with the Treaty of Rome. There followed a steady growth — 39 countries had established competition regimes as of 1989 — but then antitrust exploded: By the end of 2004, 102 countries — over 85 percent of the world’s population — had competition laws on their books, and about 120 do today.
But despite this proliferation, there’s no consensus on the optimal structure for an authority. While most competition laws can trace their inspiration back to the United States (common law system) or the European Union (civil law system), laws still widely vary, as do the structure of the authorities created to enforce them, reflecting diverse cultural, legal, and political regimes. And while most authorities have an institutional interest in preserving and promoting competition, their ability and inclination to do so have also been challenged by political events — recently, in particular, the financial crisis that began in October 2008.
While differences across countries probably dictate that there is no one “best” design for a national competition authority, we can still hope for some general principles for those countries figuring out how to come up with the best design for their circumstances. And with more than 100 hundred co