Mandate of Competition Agency in Populist Times

By Maciej Bernatt (University of Warsaw)

The paper discusses how the mandate of competition agencies is affected by actions taken by populist governments. Poland serves as a case study in this respect. Two principal problems are addressed. The first one is the prioritization of consumer enforcement over competition law enforcement by competition agencies. The second is the broadening of the agency’s mandate by new, non-competition-related competences. By studying new legislation, which broadened the agency’s mandate, and applying Kovacic and Hyman evaluative criteria framework, the paper analyses whether the coherence of objectives has been safeguarded, and whether operating capabilities have been affected. In confirmation to Biber’s work on the dysfunctions of multiple-goal agencies, the paper concludes that the competition agency being expected to deliver in other areas lacks incentives to prioritize its activity under its competition mandate. If this process is linked with insufficient resources for the agency’s competition mandate, the enforcement of competition law is likely to be low.

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