OECD Competition Assessment Reviews: Portugal

Volume II - Self-Regulated Professions

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Portugal’s services markets are among the most heavily regulated in the OECD. As vital inputs into the business sector, services provided by professionals, such as lawyers and engineers, generate up to 1.8 times their value in outputs by firms that use them. However, structural flaws in the regulation make professional services highly expensive for firms, diminishing their ability to compete effectively. Regulatory restrictions also hamper innovation and efficiency within the professions. Against this backdrop, this report examines regulations for 13 self-regulated professions (lawyers, solicitors, notaries, bailiffs, architects, engineers, technical engineers, certified accountants, auditors, economists, customs brokers, nutritionists and pharmacists). From 923 pieces of legislation analysed, the report makes 348 individual recommendations for amending or removing provisions to improve competition, and makes a detailed inventory of the analysis underlying the work. Analysis of Portuguese legislation and professions was complemented by research into international experiences and wide consultations with stakeholders from the public and private sectors. The OECD recommendations aim to remove or modify overly restrictive provisions in order to facilitate the access or exercise of the professions, to benefit businesses and consumers alike. This report identifies the sources of those benefits and gives estimates of their impact. Provided all recommendations are fully implemented, the benefit to the economy from lifting the barriers in the 13 liberal professions is estimated at around EUR 130 million a year.



Overview of the regulated professions

The existence of a well-functioning professional services market ultimately affects most economic activities and is fundamental to enable productivity growth and welfare. Regulated professions play an important role in the Portuguese economy. The three professional sectors “legal”, “technical/scientific” and “financial/economic”, represent 2.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employ around 144 000 people, with services that touch nearly every sector of economic activity. This section provides a brief overview of the rationale for regulating liberal professions and identifies the common market problems associated with them. It includes a description of the main regulatory frameworks and an economic overview of the regulated professions in Portugal. In sum, the current approach to the regulation of several professions is a prescriptive one, which leads to regulations that create several barriers to competition not justified by public interest concerns.


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