From 1 June Guernsey has a brand new regulator.
The Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2012 saw the creation of a semi-autonomous regulatory body to be called the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority (the "SGCRA"), which will assume the functions of the old Guernsey Office of Utility Regulation (OUR), together with administering Guernsey's competition laws when they come into effect later this year.
The new ordinance and the agency created by it came into effect on 1 June 2012. Much like the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, the GCRA will not be a department or agent of the States of Guernsey, though it may be guided by them on matters of policy. Significantly, the creation of the GCRA is the next step in the integration of the Channel Islands" regulatory authorities under the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authority ("SCICRA") banner. Jersey has had a competition law in place for sometime; the effective merging of the regulators had served to highlight a fairly glaring omission from the Guernsey regulatory landscape.
The functions of the GCRA are (in summary):
1. to advise the States Commerce and Employment Department generally in relation to the administration and enforcement of the Competition Law;
2. the practice and procedures related to the Competition Law;
3. to investigate potentially anti-competitive practices; and
4. to oversee (as appropriate) over Guernsey-based mergers and acquisitions.
In respect of carrying out its primary functions, the GCRA will have the full complement of powers as may be expected, including a broadly framed power to require the production of documents, accounts and other information the GCRA considers relevant in support of its investigatory powers. Two questions immediately present themselves in relation to the role of the panisland CICRA.
First, once Guernsey's competition law is in place, how will the market be defined? Is there really one market spanning both islands for all goods and services, or are there some things where trade is purely local? These types of decisions may end up having a significant impact upon how and from whom we buy things.
Second, the perennial question of who regulates the regulator?, just got more complicated. A pan-island regulator, with responsibility for matters stretching beyond the shores of a single island (particularly where there is a pan-island market definition) must look to the interests of both islands. What happens when those interests conflict, and how the regulator deals with two sets of politicians giving directions is anyone's guess.
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