Cartels are the most serious form of antitrust activity, and they are highly detrimental to the proper functioning of the economy. Cartels limit the production of goods and services and raise their prices above competitive levels. Cartel customers have fewer options available on the market. Reporting and preventing cartels improves the functionality of the market and, therefore, promotes the prosperity of consumers and of the customers of the companies concerned.
With very few exceptions, the Finnish Consumer and Competition Authority refers all the cartel-related violations of which it becomes aware to the Market Court. On the Consumer and Competition Authority’s suggestion, the Market Court may impose a penalty payment on the undertakings participating in a cartel. The maximum penalty is ten per cent of the turnover of the undertaking for the year in which it last took part in the cartel.
In certain circumstances, cartel participants may receive an exemption or a discount from the penalty.
Immunity from penalty payments
Based on Section 14 of the Finnish Competition Act, the first undertaking to reveal a cartel to the Consumer and Competition Authority may be exempted from penalty payments. For this to happen, the undertaking must provide a leniency statement, information and evidence prior to the FCCA obtaining it from some other source.
According to the Competition Act, this sort of immunity is possible whether or not the FCCA has already conducted inspections related to the cartel, but the conditions for immunity vary depending on whether the evidence is supplied before or after the inspections.
If the FCCA has not yet conducted an inspection, a participant in a cartel may obtain immunity from penalty payments if they produce a leniency statement, information and evidence on the grounds of which the FCCA is able to conduct an inspection referred to in sections 35 or 36 of the Competition Act. If an inspection has already been conducted or begun, the participant may obtain immunity if they produced a leniency statement, information and evidence on the grounds of which the FCCA can establish that Section 5 of the Competition Act or Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union have been violated.
An undertaking that has put pressure on another undertaking to get it to participate in a cartel cannot obtain immunity, although having taken a leading or initiating role in forming and maintaining the cartel is not necessarily in itself an obstacle to immunity.
Reductions of penalty payments
The participants in a cartel other than the first undertaking to have revealed the cartel to the Finnish Consumer and Competition Authority may also benefit from cooperating with the authority. Based on Section 15 of the Competition Act, the penalty payments imposed on other members of the cartel may be reduced if they submit to FCCA a leniency statement, information and evidence that is significant for establishing the existence or the extent or nature of the restraint on competition, prior to the authority obtaining the information from some other source.
The maximum reduction of the penalty in these cases is 50 per cent. The size of the discount depends on the time at which the evidence is supplied, as well as on its significance for the investigation.
The Finnish Consumer and Competition Authority may be contacted anonymously, for example through a spokesman, in order to find out whether it is possible to obtain immunity from penalty payments. At the same time, the authority can provide advice on the procedures.
An undertaking or business owner wishing to report their participation in a secret cartel should contact the FCCA by telephone:
Head of Cartel Detection Antti Norkela +358 29 505 3345
Senior Adviser Mika Hermas +358 29 505 3344
Confidential email messages (256-bit encryption)