This study focuses on market mechanisms which protect quality in the provision of services by audit firms. By providing a better understanding of these market mechanisms, it helps in defining the content of rules and the function of regulatory bodies in facilitating and strengthening the protective operation of the market. An analysis at a more general level is provided in the three chapters making up Part 1. In the four chapters of Part 2, on the other hand, this analysis is applied to a particular problem to determine how non-audit services often provided by auditors to their audit clients should be regulated. Finally, Chapter 8 contains a summary of the analysis and conclusions of the work. The conclusion with regard to non-audit services is that their provision generates beneficial effects in terms of costs, technical competence, professional judgment and competition and, moreover, need not prejudice auditor independence or the quality of these services. This assessment leads, in the normative sphere, to recommending a legislative policy aimed at facilitating the development and use of safeguards provided by the free action of market forces.
Regulation should thus aim to enable the parties - audit firms, self-regulatory bodies and audit clients - to discover, through competitive market interaction, both the most efficient mix of services and the corresponding quality safeguards, adjusting for the costs and benefits of each possibility. Particular emphasis is placed on the role played by fee income diversification and the enhancement through disclosure rules of market incentives to diversify.