The Superintendency of Market Power Control (SCPM) published the “Methodology for the identification, review, and elimination of regulatory barriers” on November 5, 2020. It will serve as a guide to remove regulatory barriers to promote the participation of various operators in the market.
The Constitution establishes the principle of the prevalence of public interest over private interest as a guide for state and social activity and recognizes the right of people to develop economic activities, individually or collectively, in accordance with the principles of solidarity, social and environmental responsibility and the power of State intervention in economic activities to promote forms of production that ensure the welfare of the population and discourage those that violate their rights or those of nature.
State intervention through the regulation of economic activities is legitimate as long as it achieves a balance of these guarantees and powers, in the sense that the regulatory restrictions imposed on the entry and permanence of economic operators in the different markets are useful, reasonable, proportionate, and sufficient to guarantee public interest but not constituting an entry barrier for the development of efficient markets.
The methodology developed by the SCPM is intended to promote free competition and market efficiency, by verifying the legitimacy of regulatory barriers and, based on this analysis, the subsequent proposal for regulatory improvements or their elimination.
The procedure comprises two phases: on the one hand, the test of legality, in which the authority’s faculties to issue the regulation under analysis are verified, and then the coherence of said regulation with the law in force, in consideration of the hierarchy of the norms determined in the Constitution. If it is determined that the regulation is illegal in the first phase, either because the authority did not have the faculty to issue it or because it contradicts a regulation of higher hierarchy, the SCPM must propose its elimination.
If the regulation passes the test of legality, in the second phase, the SCPM must weigh the reasonableness and proportionality of the restriction it imposes, against the protected legal good: the public interest. For this analysis, the SCPM must determine, in the following order:
- The appropriateness of the measure imposed by the regulation to achieve the purpose it pursues. That is, if the means employed – the restriction imposed – is indeed useful to protect the public interest.
- The need for the measure: At this point, it must be determined if there are less restrictive alternative measures useful to achieve the goal.
- The proportionality of the measure in the strict sense: In other words, the weighting aimed at balancing the degree of restriction imposed by the regulation and the importance of the legal good that it seeks to protect.
If, after this analysis, the SCPM determines that the rule that imposes the entry barrier is not reasonable, it will propose improvements or elimination, as appropriate.
Several countries in the region have recently initiated regulatory review processes to implement improvements to eliminate regulatory entry barriers that imply illegitimate restrictions on competitiveness. Colombia issued the Anti-paperwork Law in 2019. In Peru, citizens can report regulatory barriers that they consider illegitimate to the antitrust authority and its decision regarding, for example the non-applicability of such regulation (with general or particular effect, depending on the case) is binding on the administrative authorities that issued such regulation.
In Ecuador, the review of regulatory barriers is carried out solely by order of the Superintendent of Market Power Control or the Technical General Intendant, either: (i) ex officio (ii) based on a request of a public administration entity, or (iii) in application of a recommendation issued by the SCPM study divisions. However, in the introduction of the Methodology for the identification, revision, and elimination of regulatory barriers, the Superintendent of Control of Market Power expressly encourages the public to collaborate to identify regulations that fall under these parameters. Since there is no specific procedure for the public to request the review of regulatory barriers, the request would be based on the petition right guaranteed in the Constitution.
We will have to wait for the practical application of the “Methodology for the identification, review, and elimination of regulatory barriers” to determine if the recommendations made by the SCPM have a sufficient ground of legality and reasonableness so that the corresponding authorities are compelled to implement them.