To what extent should public services (for example public utilities such as telecommunications, energy, public transport and postal services) be subject to ordinary competition law? This question has assumed great importance in the context of the activities of European Union. On the one hand, it is argued (particularly in France) that competition law is a threat to the values of public services that underlie their distinctive objectives. On the other, the 'Anglo-Saxon' argument is that protecting public services from competition gives them an unfairly protected position and can mask their inefficiencies. This book examines the philosophical, political, economic, and social principles involved. Prosser contrasts the mainly economic and utilitarian justifications for the use of competition law with rights- and citizenship-based arguments for the special treatment of public services, and examines the varied conceptions of the differing traditions in the UK, France, and Italy. Prosser then considers the developing European law in this area.
He examines decisions of the European Court of Justice, considers the development of the concept of 'services of general interest' by the Commission, and reviews the liberalization process in telecommunications, energy, and postal services. He also provides a detailed case-study of public service broadcasting. The book concludes by drawing general principles from the debates about the extent to which public services merit distinctive treatment and the extent to which competition law must be amended or limited to respect their distinctive roles.
Publisher: Oxford University Press