A Brief History of Competition Law – Part 3

Continued from Part 2 It was following WWI that other countries started to implement competition policies along the lines of those introduced by the United States. Competition regulators were formed to ensure that competition and antitrust policies and laws were adhered to. Following the 2nd World War, the Allies introduced regulations to break up cartels and monopolies that had formed during the war years. At the time, this was mainly aimed at Germany and Japan. In the case of Germany, it was feared that large industry cartels were manipulated in a manner that gave total economic control of the country to the Nazi regime. With Japan, big business was a hotbed of nepotism resulting in multi-industry conglomerates that controlled the Japanese economy. However, the surrender of both Germany and Japan to the Allied forces at the end of WWII allowed for tighter controls to be enforced, and these controls were based on the principle of those being used in the U.S.

Competition and antitrust laws started being introduced in other European countries at this time, but they varied considerably in their level of control and requirements. This was standardized to some extent among member countries of the European Union, with European Union law running concurrently with the laws of individual countries. Moving into the 21st century, and with international trade becoming the order of the day, the influence of international organizations has, of necessity, been growing – and this applies to competition and antitrust laws as well.

Two organizations that have international influence are the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which deals with investment, trade and development issues on behalf of the United Nations General Assembly, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which represents 33 countries committed to democracy, in a quest to share knowledge relating to policy experiences, sound economic practices and the coordination of domestic and international economic policies.

In the U.S., the term ‘antitrust’ is more commonly used when referring to laws preventing the formation of cartels, also referred to as ‘business trusts’. Although antitrust laws are generally separate from consumer protection laws, they do offer consumers a measure of protection from unscrupulous suppliers who seek to monopolize a market sector. Mergers and acquisitions undergo a rigorous screening process in line with antitrust and competition laws before being given the go ahead – and for good reason. Healthy competition in all market sectors is one of the ingredients for a healthy economy, and offer far-reaching benefits.