FCCA proposes EUR 38 million penalty for a cartel involving 7 coach companies, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) has today presented the Market Court with a proposal for a EUR 38 million penalty concerning seven* of the sector’s major bus companies, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto. The FCCA has also ordered Matkahuolto to stop anticompetitive actions that are forcing bus companies out of business.

The FCCA’s investigations have revealed that major bus companies are guilty of forming a cartel. This began no later than autumn 2008 and is continuing to some extent. The FCCA originally began looking into the matter alongside the Regional State Administrative Agency for South-Western Finland, when the latter received a request for action.

The matter was raised due to a legal amendment that came into effect on 3 December 2009 with the purpose of opening the bus market up for competition. Key players joined forces to prevent the markets from opening up and to keep out new competitors. In practice, the parties agreed within the Finnish Bus and Coach Association in restricting competition against each other, and prevented competitors from accessing Matkahuolto’s travel and parcel services. The FCCA considers this a serious breach of the Finnish Competition Act and EU competition rules.

Transport companies affected by the cartel suffered because consumers were unable to find competitive routes within Matkahuolto’s timetable or station services, or to buy tickets for them at Matkahuolto service points. Another problem for competitors lay in being denied access to Matkahuolto parcel services, which are essential to running a profitable business.

Cartels result in fewer choices for customers, which forces them to pay higher prices than under real competitive conditions. The penalty amount is proportional to the violation’s quality, extent, reprehensibility and duration. The FCCA also took account of the fact that the Finnish Bus and Coach Association had already been penalised for a competition violation.

The purpose of penalties is to ensure that cartels do not become profitable; that illegally gained profits have lost and that those involved will be punished.  Another objective is that the penalty will act as a deterrent, preventing new cartels from springing up, or existing ones from continuing or recurring.

* – 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 Metsäpietilä Oy)
– Länsilinjat Oy
– Oy Pohjolan Liikenne Ab (and 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 and Vauhti-Vaunu Oy, Autolinjat Oy and Etelä-Suomen Linjaliikenne Oy and SL-Autoyhtymä Oy)
– Väinö Paunu Oy

Further information:
Senior Research Officer Keijo Ranta, tel. +358 29 505 3365
Assistant Director Valtteri Virtanen, tel. +358 29 505 3621