In international competition matters, the FCCA’s key stakeholders are the European Commission (DG Competition), the OECD Competition Committee, the Nordic competition authorities and the International Competition Network (ICN). The FCCA participates in more than 30 working groups within these organisations, many of which operate electronically, using telephone conferences, teleseminars and webinars.
Cooperation within the EU is crucial since, due to the EU’s impact on trade, all EU competition authorities apply the same EU competition rules. The ECN network (European Competition Network), established in 2004, plays a key role in such cooperation.
The FCCA handles issues related to the ECN network on a daily basis. Cooperation within the ECN is mainly confidential and non-public. ECN tasks also involve the processing of industry-specific competition restrictions, because industries in different countries often face the same competition issues. Industry-specific ECN working groups focus on food, energy, transport, pharmaceuticals, banking, telecommunications and environmental issues. Working together saves resources and enables the exchange of ideas on alternative solutions to competition problems. The European Commission even invites national competition authorities to discuss individual cases of restrictions on competition before deciding on them.
Because the Commission’s new policy definitions under EU competition law directly influence the application of Finnish competition law, it is necessary to participate in their preparation in Brussels. Many sectoral working groups of the EU competition authorities in which the FCCA participates are concerned with the focus of application of competition law. The FCCA also participates in the development of EU competition law, together with the Commission and other Member States. The latest example of this is the participation in the preparation of the Directive on Antitrust Damages Actions . The EU competition authorities are currently assessing the need to amend the procedural rules and sanctions systems under EU competition law.
Each year, the FCCA receives 60–80 requests for information (RFI) from other EU competition authorities, enquiring about experiences of the application of regulations in Finland with respect to the competition issue in question. Such cooperation is important in order to promote, inter alia, uniform application practices, particularly as 85 per cent of EU competition law cases are resolved in EU Member States. The Commission’s case law accounts for approximately 15 per cent of such cases. Through the assignments received, the FCCA becomes aware of cases pending in other countries and can, where applicable, use this information in its own investigations.
The FCCA assists the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in cases within the EU Court. Requests for a preliminary ruling on competition issues, pending in Luxembourg, are sent to the FCCA for an assessment of whether Finland should state its national views on competition law in relation to the case concerned.
The OECD, ICN and the Nordic countries
The Finnish national competition authority also actively participates in international cooperation within the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). The OECD is an important forum for the development of Finland’s competition policy, as many topical challenges related to competition policy and competition law receive their first in-depth review by the OECD Competition Committee.
The theory of harm related to restrictions on competition is a common factor in many issues regarding the application of competition law, regardless of the country in which the restriction arises. That is why cooperation within the OECD is important and the FCCA should make intensive use, within its own operations, of the work done within the OECD. Moreover, the fact that the competition authorities of around 30 countries – including the United States, Australia, Japan and Canada – are seeking solutions together should ensure that diverse views from outside Europe are provided on the theory of harm.
Other international partners in competition issues include the ICN (International Competition Network), the ECA (European Competition Authorities) and the Nordic competition authorities. The ICN is the world’s most comprehensive organisation specialising in competition law and competition policy. The organisation operates globally and its members include more than 130 competition authorities from all continents. For example, the ICN has conducted an agency evaluation of the activities and performances of competition authorities and examined their investigative ethics. The ICN has also published guidelines outlining the principles of a fair process for the investigation of restrictions on competition. In addition to agency effectiveness, the ICN has working groups specialising in cartels, mergers, unilateral conduct and advocacy.
Rights, obligations and possibilities
International cooperation offers concrete rights, which may be appealed to in individual competition restraints cases. The FCCA may for example request that the competition authorities of another EU state make inspections on its behalf into companies operating in the area of the said state if the companies are suspected of restrictive practices targeting the Finnish market or Finnish customers.
It is the FCCA's duty to tend to the international obligations which Finland as a state and the FCCA as the competent national authority are committed to undertake.
International cooperation increases the expertise of the FCCA personnel and hence creates new possibilities for the boosting of national competition control and advocacy. The cooperation ensures that the FCCA knows the latest trends of international competition law and economics when implementing national competition policy. The FCCA may also bring up issues which it considers important for international discussion.