Go to Statistics Portal


Statistics Directorate    
Regulation is broadly defined as imposition of rules by government, backed by the use of penalties that are intended specifically to modify the economic behaviour of individuals and firms in the private sector. Various regulatory instruments or targets exist. Prices, output, rate of return (in the form of profits, margins or commissions), disclosure of information, standards and ownership ceilings are among those frequently used.

Different rationales for economic regulation have been put forward. One is to curb potential market power and increase efficiency or avoid duplication of facilities in cases of natural monopoly. Another is to protect consumers and maintain quality and other standards including ethical standards in the case of professional services provided by doctors, lawyers, etc. Regulations may also be enacted to prevent excessive competition and protect suppliers from unstable output and low price conditions, to promote employment and more equitable distribution of income.

Excessive competition, sometimes also called ruinous competition, is a controversial term without precise meaning in economics. It usually refers to a condition of excess capacity and/or declining demand in an industry, which causes prices to fall to the level of average variable costs, discouraging new investment and causing some incumbents to leave the industry until capacity is reduced to the point where supply once again intersects with demand at a price sufficient to cover all costs. When regulatory authorities interfere with this process by setting minimum price levels, excess capacity and its attendant resource misallocation will tend to persist in the industry. Many economists use this as an example of the use of regulation to promote the private interests of producers at the expense of the public interest.

Not all forms of regulation have to be mandated or imposed by government. Many professions adopt self-regulation, i.e., develop and self-enforce rules commonly arrived at for the mutual benefit of members. Self-regulation may be adopted in order to maintain professional reputation, education and ethical standards. They may also act as a vehicle to set prices, restrict entry and ban certain practices (e.g., advertising in order to restrict competition).

Deregulation refers to the relaxation or removal of regulatory constraints on firms or individuals. Deregulation has become increasingly equated with promoting competition and market-oriented approaches toward pricing, output, entry and other related economic decisions.

Source Publication:
Glossary of Industrial Organisation Economics and Competition Law, compiled by R. S. Khemani and D. M. Shapiro, commissioned by the Directorate for Financial, Fiscal and Enterprise Affairs, OECD, 1993.


Statistical Theme: Financial statistics

Created on Thursday, January 3, 2002

Last updated on Sunday, March 17, 2002