Backbite and Sneerwell

Icasa’s god complex

The notion of regulating competitiveness betrays a fundamental failure to grasp what market competition is, and a pathological god complex.

01 April 2009

A line in an article elsewhere in this issue made me laugh, first, and frown, second. In it, Samantha Perry quotes lawyer Dominic Cull, saying that the telecoms regulator Icasa will investigate market competitiveness in terms of Chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act, and if it determines it to be deficient, to impose pro-competitive conditions on licensees with significant market power.

The funny part is the notion that “pro-competitive” behaviour is desirable. Companies exist to make money by offering products and services that someone wants or needs, as indicated by their willingness to pay for them. This is the essential social service that private companies perform: satisfying the wants of others, better than anyone else. If they fail, customers will buy less, switch to competitors or satisfy those wants themselves. This is the elusive “gap in the market” that any entrepreneur or competitor is looking for. It would be pro-competitive, for example, to make your services more expensive, sell low-quality products, refuse to answer complaints or just rip customers off. Competitors would love that and would thrive.

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