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Anchoring the Consumer: Legitimacy and Accountability in Competition Law

Final Report Summary - ACLACL (Anchoring the Consumer: Legitimacy and Accountability in Competition Law)

Competition policy claims to protect consumers but to what extent do consumers and citizens in general enjoy an effective outlet to contribute to the making of competition policy? In the light of this question, this project has investigated the moral and procedural legitimacy of competition policy. This critical and interdisciplinary project has brought together approaches from the fields of law, political science and economics together and it has relied on diverse, original methodologies, including empirical research in the form of semi-structured interviews with policymakers, critical discourse analysis and process tracing.

As a result of this investigation, the project has found that citizens do not enjoy an effective outlet to contribute to competition policymaking, which jeopardises competition policy’s procedural legitimacy. On the other hand, particularly in the context of newly emerging gig markets, employers can strategically rely on competition rules to prevent effective coordinated worker action in search for better working conditions. This potentially causes negative consequences on equality and jeopardises competition policy’s moral legitimacy.

In order to address the procedural legitimacy problem, inspired by the theory of deliberative democracy, the project proposed reforming the European Commission’s consultation regime to include platforms that inform direct and face-to-face deliberations between citizens. In order to address the moral legitimacy problem, the project proposed replacing the current “consumer welfare” approach to competition law with a more holistic “citizen welfare” approach that takes into consideration not only the welfare of consumers but also that of workers.

These findings of the project also raise significant challenges for democracy in the field of broader economic governance beyond competition policy. At present the researcher is designing a larger and more ambitious research project with the aim of investigating similar questions in the broader field of economic governance.

The findings of this project have made a significant academic impact: the project resulted in four substantial scientific publications submitted to and published in international peer reviewed journals of excellent reputation. In addition to organizing interdisciplinary and international conferences using the Marie Curie funding, the researcher has been invited to several international and interdisciplinary conferences to present the findings of the project.

The findings of the project have also been of interest to policymakers. In addition to providing evidence to the UK government during the background phase of the Brexit referendum, the researcher was commissioned by the European Parliament to provide expertise to inform the Parliament on an important forthcoming legislation in the field of competition policy.

In order to share the findings with the wider public, the researcher has organised and taken part in outreach events bringing together politicians, civil society organisations, academics and members of the public. She has written accessible blog posts and participated in radio programmes to discuss the findings of the project with the public. The results of the project has been disseminated to a diverse youth audience taking advantage of the University of Liverpool’s street law and widening participation programmes.

Further information about the project and its findings can be found at the project’s website (http://firatcengiz.eu/about-the-project/). As she continues to work on democracy in economic governance, the researcher welcomes requests of information and collaboration from academic and non-academic organisations and members of the public.