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Das Regulierungsermessen – eine Ausprägung des behördlichen Letztentscheidungsrechts?

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The article deals with the existence, scope and legal consequences of the concept of Regulierungsermessen (regulatory discretion), which has been referred to in several recent decisions rendered by the Federal Administrative Court of Germany. These decisions address the scope of decision-making powers of the competent German authorities on the field of the regulation of the network industries (telecommunications, postal services, energy, transport). The author starts with an analysis of the more general concept of regulation. The reasons for the rise of this concept are to be seen in far-reaching technological developments, the European integration, as well as the need to provide the public with the necessary basic services. Against this background, the author concludes that regulation generally aims at adding new instruments to the toolbox of traditional administrative law in order to enable this system of legal rules to meet the challenges of the network industries. Having said that, the legal consequences which arise from ,,regulation“ cannot be identified in an abstract manner, but depend on the individual provisions which substantiate what ,,regulation“ means in the relevant context.

The author goes on with an in-depth analysis of the German law concept of the behördliches letztentscheidungsrecht (right of last decision of an administrative agency). he emphasizes that in light of a basic legal principle contained in the german constitution according to which an administrative decision is generally subject to full judicial review, a clear argument exists for holding that rights of last decision of the competent administrative agencies, as expressed in the concept of the regulierungsermessen, can only be accepted in exceptional cases. whether or not a legal provision subscribes to the administration such a right which cannot be overruled by the courts depends, again, on the pertinent legal provisions applicable in the individual case.

The author, by making recourse to certain criteria identified in legal literature and case-law which indicate the existence of a right of last decision of an administrative agency, then proceeds with the question whether a Regu lie rungsermessen exists in the particular context of the regulation of access to the networks and services of market-dominant service providers. Based on an interpretation of the relevant legal provisions contained in the German laws applicable to the regulation of the network industries, the author concludes that the Bundesnetzagentur, being the competent regulatory agency under German law, has, due to its predominant technical knowledge, the power to take decisions which cannot be subjected to full judicial review by the German courts, if and to the extent to which these decisions deal with access and payment regulation. Notwithstanding this, the courts have the competence to verify whether the Bundesnetzagentur, when taking its decisions, has not abused its discretionary power. Thus, while the German authorities dealing with the regulation of the network industries have, indeed, been assigned a considerable scope of discretion for their decisions, this does not lead to a full redemption of judicial control.

Language: German

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2011

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