Public interest versus regulatory capture in the Swedish electricity market
This article tests the public interest and regulatory capture hypotheses, in the context of the Swedish electricity market, by studying the factors influencing the Swedish Energy Agency's decision to replace decision-makers it employs to hear customer complaints against utilities. The study covers the period from the beginning of 1996, when a series of regulatory reforms were introduced to improve consumer protection, until the end of 2008. The study concludes that decision-makers who find in favor of customers have had a statistically lower probability of being removed, consistent with public interest theory. A transitory effect of favoring utilities can be observed for the period from 2 to 6 years following the reforms. In this period, government and public scrutiny of the regulator, which had been high in the immediate aftermath of the reforms, had waned and there were few precedents decided by the courts that the regulator was required to follow. This vacuum created an opportunity for the utilities to increase their influence over the regulator. Once the courts started establishing precedents in relatively large numbers, the supervisory role of the courts ensured that the actions of the regulator were scrutinized. This development has served a similar function to government and public scrutiny in the years immediately following the reforms in promoting the public interest.
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