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Better Regulatory Impact Assessment

Making Behavioural Insights Work for the Commission's New Better Regulation Strategy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Kai P.- Purnhagen
Wageningen University
Peter H. Feindt
Wageningen University


The European Commission's (Commission) Better Regulation Strategy (BRS) is the major guideline for the Commission to assess legislation. It draws on regulatory impact assessment (RIA) via cost–benefit analysis (CBA), expert advice, and simplification in EU law–making. Yet, the practice of RIA by the Commission as well as in EU member states, while unavoidably incomplete, has shown avoidable shortcomings. The Commission's New Better Regulation Strategy of 2015 (NBRS) contains language that appears to address these shortcomings. If pursued consequentially, it would require an approach that resembles what has been called responsive behavioural regulation. At the same time, global initiatives from inter alia the World Bank emerge to include behavioural insights into policy analysis in the form of responsive regulation. This piece assesses potential models of RIA that can help to articulate the behavioural assumptions which are implied by NBRS as enshrined in the policy document “Better regulation for better results”. The methodological implications of the NBRS require a significant departure from the reliance on classical CBA, which is characteristic for the previous “Better Regulation” documents submitted by the Commission and which we term Old Better Regulation Strategy (OBRS).

Special Issue on the Better Regulation Package
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015

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24 This is also emphasised in the Commission's NBRS, supra, note 3, p. 3 “Better Regulation … can never replace political decisions.”

25 Commission, supra, note 3, p. 6.

26 Art. 35 CFR.

27 Art. 38 CFR.

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36 At least with respect to fundamental rights, see Commission, supra, note 3, p. 6.

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41 Steps 2 and 3 are influenced by Herbert Simon's insights into the importance of ‘bounded rationality’ and ‘satisficing’ (rather than utility–maximising) behaviour.

42 Step 4 relates to insights from, inter alia, social psychology and the sociology of everyday decisions.

43 For example impulsive purchasing behaviour, but also anger in the face of unwanted regulation. The role of emotions in the formulation and implementation of public policy is underresearched. 44 As for example shown in game experiments where participants forfeit own utility to enforce fairness norms.

45 E.g., in the SEBEROC project on responsive regulation of products containing nanomaterials, see: Bernd Steffensen, Nicola Below, Peter H. Feindt, Joop de Boer, Elizabeth Vogelezang–Stoute, Manfred Klade, Armin Spoek, Riina Pelkonen and Helena Valve, “Simulating and Evaluating a Better Regulation of Converging Technologies – project report”, available on the internet at (last accessed 1 July 2015).