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Users of Public Utility Products: Beware

Emeritus Professor Ted Kolsen writes: ‘We are more familiar with the advice ‘buyer beware’, caveat emptor, than ‘user beware’, caveat utens.  We are about to learn the importance of the latter when the Queensland Government tries to sell or lease important public utilities.  There were, and still are, reasons for preferring certain producers to be in public rather than private ownership.  Some, but not all, of the objectives in which the public is particularly interested can be achieved by strict regulation of the activities of the private owner.  This is usually expensive because it requires careful specification of the owner’s rights and obligations, and continuous monitoring, and includes the right to earnings far higher than when in government ownership.’

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