In February 2013, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) submitted a motion to the Ministry of the Interior proposing the abolition of the district chimney sweeping system and the transfer to contract-based chimney sweeping. This proposal was also included in the FCCA’s recent statement to the Ministry regarding the need for legislative changes concerning chimney sweeping. According to the FCCA, the transfer to a contract-based system would serve the interests of both consumers and new entrepreneurs considering entry into the business. Opening the sector to competition would simultaneously eliminate the currently problematic dual role of fire and rescue departments as orderers and supervisors of chimney sweeping services. Furthermore, deregulation would encourage both relevant authorities and chimney sweep entrepreneurs to develop working methods applied in this field.
The transfer to a contract-based system would increase consumers’ opportunity to choose their preferred chimney sweep. In the present system, the consumer is tied to one and the same service provider, regardless of whether the consumer is satisfied with the service or not. In Eastern Uusimaa, for example, where the contract-based system has been tested for a long time, virtually no customer complaints have been registered since 2012.
As a general rule, chimney sweeping can be regarded as normal commercial activity that should fall under the general freedom of trade. The EU Service Directive is also based on the principle that the provision of services should not be restricted without special grounds. In a contract-based system, all entrepreneurs holding the appropriate qualifications could offer chimney sweeping services.
All in all, a district chimney sweeping system is not a very modern way of arranging public services or comparable essential services. Chimney sweeping is a good example of a sector where the related regulations should be reviewed as part of a new, more extensive approach towards regulation and the reform of the public economy.
The FCCA points out that, when developing the current system, particular attention should also be paid to safeguarding the availability and reasonable pricing of chimney sweeping services in sparsely populated areas. However, the special challenges of these areas should not be the starting point of regulation affecting the whole sector. For example, problems related to the availability of services in sparsely populated areas can be solved as separate issues, if necessary.
The Ministry of the Interior requested the FCCA’s statement regarding the Ministry’s preliminary assessment of the matter, which in practice suggests that the present district sweeping system be maintained.