FCCA Seminar 2015: Digitalisation acts as a source of growth but requires wise regulation

The theme of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority´s FCCA Seminar on 3 November 2015 was digitalisation. In particular, the presentations raised the issue of regulation and its role in the advance of digitisation. Although digitalisation can, for the most part, be left to the market, competition and consumer protection norms are nevertheless still needed.

All the speakers at the FCCA Seminar were unanimous that digitalisation requires, in part, a new kind of regulation. As Juhani Jokinen, Director General of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) pointed out in his opening speech, digitalisation entails issues regarding, among other things, how and to what extent the consumer and the fluent operation of markets should be protected.

According to Pekka Timonen, Director General, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, digitalisation should not be controlled by means of directives, prohibitions and regulatory control, but rather throughless stringent regulation, in which the government would ensure the openness of the market and eliminate only the most flagrant abuses.

Elisa Corporation´s CEO Veli-Matti Mattila likewise supported reduced regulation. New market entrants and the competition they bring with them are welcome, but the competitive conditions in that case should be equal. For example, in issues relating to data protection and targeted marketing, Finnish firms have to operate in a regulatory environment that differs from that of global companies.

Timo Mattila, Director of FCCA’s Competition Division considered it important to create conditions for the development of digitalisation where guidance would take place through market signals and not through extensive regulation. For example, service platform providers frequently have a natural interest in ensuring that competition functions smoothly between the actual service providers. Kristiina Pietikäinen,Communications Counsellor, Ministry of Transport and Communications, said that the public sector cannot create digital business operations on behalf of companies; rather its task is to draft legislation crossing administrative branches, which enables business.

Katja Viertiö, Deputy Head of Unit, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, described the obstacles faced by consumers and companies in cross-border online shopping. Lack of consumer trust and geo-blocking, especially, hamper development of the digital internal market. Päivi Hentunen, Director General of the FCCA´s Consumer Division, Consumer Ombudsman, emphasised that consumer trust and, through this, cross-border trading and digitalisation can be promoted by means of good consumer protection. A high level of consumer protection does not create over-regulation as long as the legislation is of a high standard and the timing is right.

Director General Juhani Jokinen summed up the achievements of the seminar in his closing speech. Norms relating to competition and consumer protection are still needed, but we should let the market take care of ensuring that digitalisation gets the opportunity to advance growth.

See the seminar papers (in Finnish only)