The FCCA’s year 2016: Competition and consumer issues increasingly involved digitalisation

The Yearbook 2016 of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority presents the FCCA’s achievements and explains the importance to society of competition and consumer protection. Alongside antitrust and consumer affairs, the FCCA focused on digital business issues, such as geoblocking and robotisation.

The FCCA ensures the functioning of markets. The Competition Division removes barriers to competition, ensuring that competition-based efficiency improves and consumers are offered competitive alternatives. The Consumer Division, on the other hand, ensures that consumers have access to sufficient, accurate, and truthful information for making choices, and that the practices companies use in marketing and their customer relations are appropriate and the contract terms applied by them are reasonable.

During 2016, the FCCA’s Competition Division made 33 decisions on business acquisitions and, in ensuring competitive neutrality, investigated almost 40 operations belonging to actors in the public sector markets. The agency continued to focus on the detection of cartels and the development of more efficient investigative processes. In addition, preparations were made for a new activity, supervising the legality of public procurements.

In the FCCA’s Consumer Division, the Consumer Ombudsman received about 5,700 contacts during the year. Business including sports equipment and furniture retailers had to be reminded about the basic marketing rules governing special offer and sales marketing. Subscription traps also continued to keep the FCCA busy. In addition to discussions held with companies, the Consumer Ombudsman assisted several consumers in court, in whose cases collection agencies had begun to recover debts, related to subscription traps, by legal means. These cases ended in either the Consumer Ombudsman winning the case, or companies voluntarily ceasing their recovery efforts upon the Consumer Ombudsman’s announcement that it would assist the consumer.

The FCCA supported consumer skills by revamping its consumer advice web page. The agency also introduced Complaint Assistant, which helps consumers to draw up written complaints to sellers, without needing personal advice. The national Consumer Advisory Service was contacted around 72,000 times during the year.

The FCCA’s activities are becoming more closely involved with digitalisation-based phenomena, such as geoblocking, platforms, mass data and robotisation. Fundamental issues included information security and liability issues from the consumer perspective, and ensuring a level playing field in the public and private sectors and the opportunity for new operators to enter the market from the viewpoint of functioning competition.

The year was also marked by legislative reforms relating to the organisation of social and health services and transport services. In response to requests by parties such as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Finance, the FCCA drew up a report on the opportunities and requirements for competition in the social and health care services reform. The agency also participated in the preparation and impact evaluation of the Government’s draft proposal for the reform of transport services.

The FCCA’s Yearbook 2016