The paper starts with a description of major reforms of EU policy in the network industries. Based on the normative economics of regulation, it then points out generic information and transaction cost problems of regulatory policy making. An appropriate allocation of regulatory competencies may help mitigate these problems. Focusing on the 'federal' allocation of competencies it is argued that traditional economic theories of federalism should be complemented by contract-theoretic and transaction-cost-political approaches. There has been some progress in recent years in developing such a 'new economic theory of federalism'. Basic ideas and some insights of this theory are discussed with regard to the appropriate 'federal' allocation of competencies for the regulation of the European network industries.