In the words of Emmanuel Combe, Vice-President of the Autorité de la Concurrence

For regulated competition

The public often have an ambivalent view of competition: as consumers we’re grateful for it, as employees we fear it, as citizens we debate it. For some, it is a healthy form of emulation, which allows the most deserving to assert their talents. Indeed, economist Frédéric Bastiat keenly noted in his day that destroying competition is like “killing intelligence”. Competition is the antithesis of arbitrariness, privilege and unjustified rents: it embodies “the democratic law in essence”. For others, competition is like a selection process, at the end of which a company finds itself alone on the market and will entrench its position by resorting to unfair means, to the detriment of the most fragile. To recall the words of J.F. Proudhon, “competition kills competition”.

In fact, there is an element of truth to both of these opposing views. On the one hand, every day we can see the beneficial effects of new players entering the market: on prices, quality and diversity of products, as well as the incentive to innovate. For example, in the case of France, the strengthening of competition in air transport, ride-hailing services, mobile telephony and notarial offices are all recent, concrete examples of the benefits of this invisible but powerful force.

On the other hand, we also witness that dominant companies abuse their positions to block the entry of new, equally efficient competitors, or to discriminate against their customers. In oligopolistic markets, companies sometimes engage in collective cartel practices that artificially raise prices, without any benefits for customers. The first victims of these practices are often other companies, whose competitiveness is negatively affected.

These two visions, as opposed as they may be, are not irreconcilable, as long as we adopt a dynamic vision. Experience shows us that a company that has initially beaten the competition on its merits may subsequently be tempted to maintain its market power by resorting to artificial practices. The competition process will then grind to a permanent halt: competition will have “killed competition”.

Once competition is no longer self-sustaining, the intervention of a “visible hand” becomes essential. This visible hand is that of regulated competition.

In this regard, competition policy, and in particular its antitrust component, plays a decisive role. It is clearly no coincidence that more than 130 jurisdictions around the world now have competition laws and authorities to enforce them. This is the case in France with the Autorité de la concurrence, a leading institution in the service of economic public order.

In the exercise of its enforcement remit, the Autorité de la concurrence has demonstrated its steadfast determination to combat a broad spectrum of anticompetitive practices, using all the tools provided by the legislator: interim measures, fines, injunctions, etc. The subtlety of a competition policy lies in drawing a dividing line between what falls under a company’s own merit, and what is unjustifiable, particularly in terms of abuse. This definition of course is constantly evolving, in line with the practices of companies.

But regulating competition is not limited to enforcement. The challenge is also to create new areas for competition in our country, if these areas are constrained by excessive or inadequate regulation. In this respect, the Autorité de la concurrence, in its advisory role, provides guidance to the Government and the national representation on the potential for competition that could be unshackled if the regulations were better adapted to today’s world.

In particular, the rise of digital technology and e-commerce makes it possible for new business models to emerge, which cater to new needs. The challenge is not to deregulate everything: the imperatives of quality and safety will always justify maintaining a minimal level of protective regulations. The challenge is to ensure that the level of regulation is justified and proportionate to the pursued objective, and that it does not lead to excessive restrictions on competition, by maintaining artificial rents. This is a fundamental challenge for our country: in a world of disruption and innovation, the economic growth of tomorrow will depend in large part on our ability to allow new giants to emerge and grow.

Through its enforcement and advisory remit, the Autorité de la concurrence plays a comprehensive role in this regulation of competition, with the aim of ensuring the conditions of a competitive market, for the greatest benefit of all: more competitive prices, diversified products, the growth of new players, stronger incentives to innovate.

Managing cookies

A cookie is a file which does not allow the identification of the user of the Site, but which records information relating to the navigation of a computer on a site. The data thus obtained are intended to facilitate navigation on the site and are also intended to allow various measures of attendance.