The working group under the Ministry of Employment and the Economy has published its long-awaited memorandum (written in the form of a Government Bill) regarding a comprehensive revision of the Finnish Act on Competition Restrictions. The revised Competition Act is proposed to become effective as of 1 January 2010.
The following key amendments are proposed by the working group:
- the replacement of the current dominance test used in the substantive assessment of notified transactions with the SIEC-test (significant impediment to effective competition), i.e. the same test which is applied under the EC Merger Regulation;
- the elimination of the notification deadline of one week from the event triggering the notification obligation (e.g. the entry into a binding acquisition agreement);
- the possibility to extend processing time limits in cases where information requested by the Competition Authority has not been submitted;
- the clarification of the provisions regarding the suspension obligation, i.e. the prohibition of the implementation of a notified transaction before clearance;
Procedure in Competition Restriction Matters
- increased possibilities for the Competition Authority to prioritise matters and, under certain circumstances, to close cases without initiating any investigation;
- amendments to the provisions regarding access to file: the parties involved would not have access to documents in the Competition Authority’s file for as long as the Competition Authority’s investigation is pending, if the disclosure of such documents would adversely effect the investigation of the matter;
- information submitted in leniency proceedings would be treated as confidential, if the disclosure of such information were to adversely effect the investigation of the matter or the leniency applicant;
- the officials of the Competition Authority and the Provincial State Offices would, pursuant to the Market Court’s authorisation, be entitled to conduct inspections or investigations (including so-called “dawn raids”) also in other than business premises, such as in the homes of employees (this is currently possible only when investigating alleged breaches of Article 81 or Article 82 of the EC Treaty);
Sanctions for Competition Infringements
- increasing the transparency and foreseeability of the current leniency regime by i.a. laying down detailed provisions on the conditions for receiving a reduction of competition infringement fines in cartel matters and by establishing applicable reduction percentages;
- a possibility for the Competition Authority to allow a leniency applicant to continue participation in cartel activities in order to secure the successful investigation of the cartel matter without alerting other cartel members to the ongoing investigation;
Actions for Damages
- the clarification of the rules relating to the statutory limitation periods applicable to the right to claim damages based on the Competition Act, including the setting of the statutory limitation period to ten (10) years from the occurrence or termination of the competition infringement or two (2) years from the final (non-appealable) decision of the Competition Authority or a court;
- the possibility for others than undertakings, including individual consumers and public bodies, to bring an action for damages under the Competition Act.
The proposed amendments will in many respects clarify the current Act on Competition Restrictions and further harmonise the national competition law rules with the EC competition law regime.
For further information, please contact Mikko Eerola, Lotta Pohjanpalo, Kirsi Peltomäki or Julia Pekkala at email@example.com or at +358 9 668 9520.