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Systems of Self-administration of Liberal Professions

An economic and comparative analysis of the existing self-administration systems of liberal professions in the European Union and a proposal for a regulation of the self-administration de lege ferenda

The system of self-administration of liberal professions is heavily criticised. It is often said that self-administration bodies were more likely to take into account the interests of their own members than those of thirds parties, e.g. consumers. A summary of the main points of critique can be found in the Biennial Report 2004/2005 the Monopolies Commission.

It is feared that when making decisions the professional associations consider the interests of their own members to be of greater importance than those of the clients, competing professions or potential professional newcomers. Thus, the Monopolies Commission is of the opinion that self-administration bodies should be limited to the setting and supervision of quality standards and to out-of-court settling. However, to reduce the restriction of competition suffered by consumers the bodies should not be allowed to regulate commercial aspects of their professions.

Similiar concerns are expressed in a study by the Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna entitlted "Economic impact of regulation in the field of liberal professions in different Member States" which was published in 2004. According to the study the self-regulation of liberal professions is dangerous because there is always a tendency of market foreclosure. Furthermore, there often is no efficient price competition and no competition of service providers. This opinion is shared by the European Commission, see Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social committee and the Committee of the Regions - Professional Services - Scope for more reform - Follow-up to the Report on Competition in Professional Services, COM(2004) 83 of 9 February 2004.

These questions need to addressed with the bigger question in mind whether the regulation of liberal professions is necessary to protect public interests or whether its main purpose is to protect the interests of the profession in question. Especially the European Commission is in favour of deregulating liberal professions. Their main argument is that, from an economic point of view, there is no advantage to more regulation.  This can be seen in the Scandinavian markets where there is barely any regulation.

Our study aims to be the first study to include an encompassing analysis of the different regulatory systems of liberal professions in the European member states. To answer the aforementioned questions, we are using legal and economic methods. The study aims to examine all aspects relevant to the question of regulating liberal professions. The analyses already published are going to be examined critically and be supplemented with our own findings if necessary.

The study is concluded by an assessment of different aspects of self-regulation: the efficiency and usefulness of self-regulation, the impact on consumers and alternative means of regulation. The results and analyses aim to further the legal policy discussion about regulation.