The Supreme Administrative Court has imposed penalty payments of approximately EUR 9 million in the bus cartel case. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the parties have systematically hindered the opening of the bus market to competition, thereby harming consumers. While the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) is satisfied with the ruling, it also considers it to be important that guidelines for fines be created in Finland.
In January 2016, the FCCA submitted a proposal to the Market Court under which a penalty payment amounting to more than EUR 30 million should be imposed on the coach companies*), the Finnish Bus and Coach Association, and Matkahuolto. Working in agreement, the companies sought to prevent market opening and the access to the market of new competitors. The parties in the cartel excluded new regular services from Matkahuolto's Timetable and Ticket Purchase Services as well as Parcel Services.
In its ruling of December 2017, the Market Court found that the coach companies, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto were guilty of a cartel, ordering each of them to pay a EUR 100,000 penalty payment for prohibited restriction of competition. The FCCA considered the penalty payments insufficient, appealing the case to the Supreme Administrative Court.
In a ruling handed down today, 20 August 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court states that the competition infringement was used to systematically impede and delay the opening of the bus market to competition. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, this conduct can be regarded as an especially harmful and serious infringement. The cartel has harmed consumers in the form of weakened price and quality competition.
The Supreme Administrative Court imposed penalty payments amounting to EUR 8.9 million, distributed as follows: Matkahuolto EUR 4,300,000, Länsilinjat EUR 100,000, Pohjolan Matka EUR 300,000, Pohjolan Liikenne/VR EUR 300,000, Koiviston Auto EUR 2,300,000, Vainion Liikenne EUR 500,000, Savonlinja (Savonlinja Oy, Linja-Karjala Oy and Vauhti-Vaunu Oy, Autolinjat Oy, Etelä-Suomen Linjaliikenne Oy and SL-Autoyhtymä Oy) EUR 400,000, Väinö Paunu EUR 600,000 and Linja-autoliitto EUR 100,000.
“We are very satisfied with the fact that the Supreme Administrative Court has increased the penalty payments and has made a finding of a serious competition infringement with long duration. The ruling does, however, also demonstrate that current legislation does not enable penalty payments that are sufficiently high in proportion to the harmful nature of cartels, or in order to provide sufficient deterrence to cartels. Finland should put in place fining guidelines such as those applied by the Commission, which would bring penalty payments to a sufficiently high level. Cartels are always highly harmful to consumers and the national economy. The risk of being caught and the level of fines must be high enough to make engaging in cartel activities unprofitable,” says Kirsi Leivo, Director-General of the FCCA.
• J. Vainion Liikenne Oy
• Koiviston Auto -Yhtymä (Jyväskylän Liikenne Oy, Koiviston Auto Oy, Koskilinjat Oy, Kuopion Liikenne Oy, Porvoon Liikenne Oy - Borgå Trafik Ab, Satakunnan Liikenne Oy and Metsäpieti-lä Oy)
• Länsilinjat Oy
• Oy Pohjolan Liikenne Ab (ja VR-Yhtymä Oy)
• Pohjolan Matka (Pohjolan Turistiauto Oy, Koillismaan Turistiauto Oy, Antti Kangas Oy and Savon Turistiauto Oy)
• Savonlinja-yhtiöt (Savonlinja Oy, Linja-Karjala Oy ja Vauhti-Vaunu Oy, Autolinjat Oy, Etelä-Suomen Linjaliikenne Oy and SL-Autoyhtymä Oy)
• Väinö Paunu Oy
FCCA proposes EUR 38 million penalty for a cartel involving 7 coach companies, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto (FCCA's press release 25.1.2016)
Supreme Administrative Court's press release 20.8.2019 (in Finnish)
Kirsi Leivo, Director-General of the FCCA, tel. +358 29 505 3351
Director Valtteri Virtanen, tel. +358 29 505 3621