Regulatory agency

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A regulatory agency or regulatory body, is a government authority that is responsible for exercising autonomous dominion over some area of human activity in a licensing and regulating capacity.

These are customarily set up to strengthen safety and standards, and/or to protect the public/federal from unethical business conduct in markets where there is a lack of effective competition or the potential for the undue exercise of monopoly. An autarchic supervisory agency' is a monitoring agency that is self employed from other branches or arms of the government.

Examples of regulatory agencies that enforce standards include the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the United Kingdom; and, in the case of economic regulation, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets and the Telecom Regulatory Authority in India.

Legislative basisEdit

Regulatory agencies are generally a part of the executive branch of the government and have statutory authority to perform their functions with oversight from the legislative branch. Their actions are often open to legal review.

Regulatory agencies deal in the areas of administrative law, regulatory law, secondary legislation, and rulemaking (codifying and enforcing rules and regulations and imposing supervision or oversight for the benefit of the public at large). The existence of independent regulatory agencies is justified by the complexity of certain regulatory and directorial tasks, and the drawbacks of political interference. Some independent regulatory agencies perform investigations or audits, and other may fine the relevant parties and order certain measures. In a number of cases, in order for a company or organization to enter an industry, it must obtain a license to operate from the sector regulator. This license will set out the conditions by which the companies or organizations operating within the industry must abide.


In some instances, regulatory agencies have powers to require that companies or bureau operating within a particular industry adhere to certain standards or deliver a set of outputs ex ante.[jargon] This type of regulation is common in the provision of public utilities which are subject to economic regulation. Regulatory agencies in this area will:

  • Oblige individuals, companies or firm entering the industry to obtain a license;
  • set price controls;
  • accept filing of tariffs / duty specifying rates and types of services to be provided; and
  • require the provision of particular service levels.

In most cases, regulatory agencies have powers to use some of the following ex post mechanisms:[jargon]

  • Impose transparency of information and decision-making on part of the regulated company or organization;
  • monitor the performance and compliance of the regulated company or organization, with the regulator publishing the findings of its investigations;
  • require that administrators give reasons explaining their actions, and have followed principles that promote non-arbitrary and responsive decisions;
  • undertake enforcement action, such as directing the company to comply through orders, the imposition of financial penalties and/or the revocation of a license to operate; and
  • arrangements for review of administrative decisions by courts or other bodies such as competition authorities.

The functions of regulatory agencies in prolong "collaborative governance" provide for generally non-adversarial regulation.[1] Ex post actions taken by regulatory agencies can be more adversarial and involve sanctions, influencing rulemaking, and creating quasi-common law.[2] However, the roles of regulatory agencies as "regulatory monitors" provide a viral function in administering law and ensuring compliance.[2]


By country or international organizationEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Blomgran Bingham, Lisa (2009). "Collaborative Governance: Emerging Practices and the Incomplete Legal Framework for Public and Stakeholder Voice" (PDF). Journal of Dispute Resolution (2).
  2. ^ a b Van Loo, Rory (2018). "Regulatory Monitors: Policing Firms in the Compliance Era". Columbia Law Review.