News, 20 February 2012
On the basis of supplementary appropriations received for combating the grey economy, the FCA boosts the control of cartels and other restraints on competition. The recruitment of new officials, primarily focusing on cartel control, is currently underway. Control is also tightened by increasing the cooperation of competition authorities and the civil servants responsible for public procurements to detect cartels.
Citizens and undertakings are also encouraged to inform the competition authorities of their cartel suspicions. A tip-off about a cartel may also be given anonymously via a tip-off form, which can be found on the FCA’s website.
First one to disclose a cartel may obtain immunity
As a rule, the FCA brings all the detected cartel infringements before the Market Court for the imposition of a penalty payment. The level of fines imposed for cartels has risen in recent years and, under the Competition Act, may even equal ten per cent of the undertaking’s turnover. However, the undertaking that is the first one to disclose the cartel to the authorities may either obtain immunity or a reduction of the fines on certain conditions.
Obtaining immunity is only possible for one cartel member– the one who first submits information and evidence of a cartel to the FCA. But on certain conditions, other cartel members may also obtain a reduction of the penalty payment if they submit to the FCA information that is relevant for the investigations (Cf. www.kilpailuvirasto.fi/leave-cartel.)
The FCA’s new website also contains Guidelines on Immunity from and reduction of fines in cartel cases, the new Disengage from a cartel and obtain immunity brochure and a video entitled Boosting cartel control, which was shot at the FCA at the end of last year. The FCA has also recently published a checklist relating to the detection of cartels for those responsible for procurements.
The videos and brochures may be freely used by parties other than the FCA. The video, which is located on an external server, may be downloaded directly from the FCA’s website.
Economic damages caused by cartels considerable
Combating and detecting secret cartels between competitors increases both the efficiency of the economy and the welfare of the undertakings’ customers and consumers. Cartels limit the production of goods and services and decrease the options available to customers. They also increase the prices to be paid for products compared to a competitive level. According to the OECD, cartels may raise the prices of products by as many as tens of percents.
In 2011, the FCA made inspections in seven cases, the majority of which concerned cartel suspicions. Several other cartels suspicions are currently being investigated. One proposal for a penalty payment was made in 2011. The biggest Finnish cartel fines so far have been imposed on the asphalt and forest cartels - the combined total amount of the fines amounted to over 130 million euros.
Director General Juhani Jokinen