On 15 December 2022 the Market Court of Finland ordered the Finnish Real Estate Management Federation and six companies* in the real estate management sector to pay penalty payments totalling EUR 4.93 million for nationwide collaboration in price-fixing in violation of the Competition Act.
In February 2021 the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) called on the Market Court to impose a total of EUR 22 million in the matter. According to FCCA’s investigations, the companies and the Real Estate Management Federation had agreed on the prices of real estate management services in 2014-2017 and attempted to raise the price level of real estate management activities nationwide.
In its decision, the Market Court concluded that the Real Estate Management Federation and six companies represented on its board had illegally colluded to fix prices from 2014 to 2017. According to the Market Court, activities aimed at collusion on prices and raising prices had taken place on a national scale and had been rather significant in their economic scope. The Market Court nevertheless concluded that based on the evidence, the activity had not been as intense and extensive as FCCA had claimed.
”The Market Court agreed with our submission that there was serious and nationwide collaboration, with the goal of anti-competitively affecting price trends in the real estate management sector. We are pleased that fines were imposed on all parties proposed by the FCCA.”
The decision by the Market Court is not yet final, as it can be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court. The FCCA will examine the decision before deciding whether to appeal.
Trade associations must ensure compliance with competition rules
Trade associations have been involved in many cartel and restriction of competition cases in recent years. In addition to price cartels in the real estate management business, fines have been imposed in Finland in cases involving driving schools, baked goods, and hair salons. The Competition Act does not prevent trade associations from taking part in normal advocacy of interests, but they must adhere to competition rules when companies in competition with each other are involved. Trade associations must not give price recommendations, nor may competing companies in the associations discuss prices with each other. The FCCA has published guidance for trade associations to support adherence to competition rules.
* Colliers Finland Group Oy ja Retta Services Oy
Isännöinti Ilkka Saarinen Oy
OP Koti Kainuu Oy
Oulun Kiinteistötieto Oy ja Suomen Kiinteistöhallinta Oy
Retta Services Oy, Retta Group Oy ja Retta Holding Oy
REIM Hämeenlinna Oy ja REIM Group Oy Ltd