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174 Working Paper

The Non-Americanization of European Regulatory Styles: Data Privacy Regulation in France, Germany, Italy, and Britain

2010 – Francesca Bignami


European countries have experienced massive structural transformation over the past twenty-five years with the privatization of state-owned industries, the liberalization of markets, and the rise of the European Union. According to one prominent line of analysis, these changes have led to the Americanization of European regulatory styles: previously informal and cooperative modes of regulation are becoming adversarial and litigation-driven, similar to the American system. This article explores the Americanization hypothesis with a structured comparison of data privacy regulation in four countries (France, Britain, Germany, and Italy) and a review of three other policy areas. It finds that European regulatory systems are converging, but not on American-style litigation, rather on an administrative model of deterrence-oriented regulatory enforcement and industry self-regulation. The explanation for this emerging regulatory strategy is to be found in government responses to market liberalization, as well as the pressure created by the governance process of the European Union.