The means of controlling competition restrictions to be reinforced – amendments to the Competition Act to enter into force on 17 June 2019

The key amendments concern inspections carried out by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA), the FCCA’s right to obtain information, and the exchange of information between authorities . The aim of these amendments is to safeguard a competitive market and secure framework conditions for business activities by enhancing the control of competition restrictions and competition neutrality.

The inspection provisions of the Competition Act have been amended to allow the FCCA to conduct searches in temporary copies of data made during inspections also in its own premises. Furthermore, the amendments specify the FCCA’s right of inspection to be independent of the medium and so to cover, amongst others,  various mobile devices.

“The amendments to the Competition Act improve the FCCA’s possibilities to monitor cartels and other competition restrictions that harm consumers. Unannounced inspections are a key tool for the FCCA in investigating competition restrictions, and a great deal of the evidence on competition restrictions collected by the Authority currently consists of material in electronic format. The right to continued inspection improves the efficiency of the Authority’s investigations,” says Timo Mattila, Head of the FCCA’s Competition Division.

The amendments to the Competition Act will also enhance the exchange of information between national authorities. The Competition Act has been amended to include authorities to which the FCCA may deliver information and documents notwithstanding the provisions on confidentiality. In addition to the Competition Act, two other acts have been amended to allow the FCCA to obtain obligation compliance reports from the Grey Economy Information Unit and tax data from the Tax Administration to monitor competition restrictions. The FCCA’s right to obtain information from public entities in particular will also be expanded. The obligation of various parties to provide information to the FCCA will be the same irrespective of the conduct under investigation.

To the Section on prioritisation and the decision not to investigate of the Competition Act, a prioritisation criterion has been added, on the basis of which the Authority is able to not investigate minor competition restrictions. The leniency procedure has also been amended by extending the scope of so-called summary applications.

Accounting separation obligation  to enter into force next year

The competition neutrality provisions of the Competition Act have been supplemented with a requirement to maintain separate accounts. Municipalities, joint municipal authorities, the state or any entities under their control that engage in economic activities in a competitive situation must maintain separate accounts on the activities. This provision will significantly improve the transparency of the economic activities of public entities and facilitate the control of market-based pricing also in situations where a public entity has incorporated both economic activities and other activities in a single company.

Time limits for merger control proceedings will be counted as working days instead of months. After the reform, the processing time for phase I will be 23 working days, and for phase II, 69 working days. Time limits will be applied according to the new legislation to mergers notified after the Act enters into force.

The amendments to the Competition Act will enter into force on 17 June 2019. However, the provision on the accounting separation obligation will not be applied until 1 January 2020. Relating to the amendments to legislation, the FCCA will later provide more detailed guidance, among other things, on leniency, continued inspection and the obligation to maintain separate accounts of economic activities.

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