Requirements to Establish Competitor Standing to Challenge Agency Action

The recent decision in Pennsylvania Bankers Association, 893 A.2d 864, is instructive on what is required to establish competitor standing to challenge agency action. In Pennsylvania Bankers Association, banks which asserted standing based on competitive harm were permitted to intervene and participate in administrative hearings; however, they never offered proof of harm to their interests caused by the proposed administrative action. This Court recognized that although the financial interests of a competitor may constitute an interest necessary to confer standing, such harm will not be presumed. Absent an independent statutory basis for standing, a complaining party must establish a direct interest in an agency action by presenting evidence of causation of harm to its financial interest by the agency action. The Court stated: The problem presented here is that Banks did not establish an aggrieved status because they did not prove a direct interest. Specifically, they did not show causation of harm to their interests occasioned by the expansion of Credit Unions' membership fields, despite an opportunity to do so. Banks argues that potential lost profits represent a discernible adverse effect upon which standing may arise, and they rely on Pennsylvania Automotive Ass'n v. State Bd. of Vehicle Mfrs., Dealers and Salespersons, [121 Pa. Commw. 352, 550 A.2d 1041 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1988)]. In that case, however, a hearing was held and the complaining party, a competitor, "presented economic testimony that the [contested program] would result in a reduced rate of return for dealers." Id. at 1044. Therefore, nothing in that opinion or subsequent cases which rely on it supports a presumed harm; rather, that opinion supports the conclusion that while the financial interests of a competitor may constitute an interest necessary to confer standing, proof of that harm may be necessary. There is none here. 893 A.2d at 870.