Regulatory reform for services of general interest and trends in citizen satisfaction.
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AuthorClifton, Judith Catherine; Díaz Fuentes, Daniel; Fernández Gutiérrez, Marcos; James, Oliver; Jilke, Sebastian; Walle, Steven van de
In the European Union (EU), as in most of the developed and also developing world, reforms and particularly liberalization of public services were introduced during the last decades, aiming to increase citizen and consumer satisfaction. However, the reforms have not achieved all the results that were expected as regards citizens’ behaviour and satisfaction. Regulators all over the world aim to improve the analysis and understanding of real consumers’ decisions and perceptions, and incorporating them into regulatory policies. In this context, the main objective of this report is to analyze longitudinal trends, as well as socio-economic differences, in citizen satisfaction, perception and reported behaviour toward public services in the EU. To do so, firstly the main empirical contributions of the existing literature on this topic are described. Then, based on data from Eurobarometers, trends and differences in satisfaction and reported behaviour (use, complaining and exercising choice) towards public services in the EU Member Countries are analyzed. The results obtained reflect the key role of different socioeconomic characteristics (as sex, age, education, employment and area of residence) in determining both behaviour and satisfaction towards public services. Some groups show better results in the use of the services and decision making, are more able to express voice and exercise choice and, as a result, tend to obtain higher satisfaction. However, other socioeconomic groups, as the elderly, the lower educated and those unemployed show worse results both in expressing voice and choice and in maximizing their satisfaction, thus reflecting their particular vulnerability as consumers of the liberalized public services. Citizens’ heterogeneity as consumers and aspects conditioning vulnerability are a great challenge for public services regulation, and should be incorporated into the European regulatory policies if the achievement of more efficient markets aims to be compatible with the maintenance of social cohesion.