In its decision issued on 14 December 2017, the Market Court considered that the coach companies*), Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto have been guilty of participating in a cartel. The Market Court’s decision was partly in line with the penalty proposal made by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA), although the penalty sum is smaller than proposed.
The FCCA’s investigations indicated that the coach companies*), Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto conspired to prevent the market from being opened and new competitors from entering the market. The parties had agreed to limit mutual competition and prevented competing bus routes from using Matkahuolto’s travel and parcel services.
The procedure constituted a serious breach of the Finnish Competition Act and EU competition rules. On 25 January 2016, the FCCA made a proposal to the Market Court for the imposition of a EUR 38 million penalty payment.
The Market Court ordered the companies, Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto to each pay a penalty payment of EUR 100,000 for prohibited restraints on competition. The Market Court considered that the companies and Finnish Bus and Coach Association had sought to restrict competition by shutting new bus routes out of Matkahuolto’s travel services, such as information and ticket sales services, and not granting freight transport rights to them. With regard to travel services, the prohibited activities took place from December 2010 to September 2012, and from December 2010 to December 2015 with regard to freight services.
”The decision of the Market Court is important for the prevention of cartels in general, but particularly because this matter involved the attempt of companies to nullify the benefits obtained by customers and consumers from the opening of the market. Such restraints of competition are a focus area of the FCCA’s operations. Whether the imposed fine is sufficient, that is an entirely different matter”, says Director General Juhani Jokinen of the FCCA.
In the opinion of the Market Court, the companies and Finnish Bus and Coach Association had not been guilty of prohibited restraints on competition in the course of their lobbying work and the related discussions and negotiations. Neither did it consider the opposition to the issuing of route licences in discussions and through statements or complaints to constitute prohibited restriction of competition. The Market Court did not consider Matkahuolto’s renewed service agreement to place restraints on competition. On these counts, the Market Court rejected the proposal of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority.
After familiarising itself with the Market Court’s decision, the FCCA will decide on whether to appeal against the decision before the Supreme Administrative Court.
- Market Court release 14 December 2017 (in Finnish)
- FCCA proposes EUR 38 million penalty for a cartel involving 7 coach companies, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association and Matkahuolto (FCCA release dated 25 January 2016)
- 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 ja Metsäpietilä Oy)
- Länsilinjat Oy
- Oy Pohjolan Liikenne Ab (ja VR-Yhtymä Oy)
- Pohjolan Matka (Pohjolan Turistiauto Oy, Koillismaan Turistiauto Oy, Antti Kangas Oy ja Savon Turistiauto Oy)
- Savonlinja-yhtiöt (Savonlinja Oy, Linja-Karjala Oy ja Vauhti-Vaunu Oy, Autolinjat Oy ja Etelä-Suomen Linjaliikenne Oy sekä SL-Autoyhtymä Oy)
- Väinö Paunu Oy