As in previous years, the FCCA participated in 2017 in the operations of the European Competition Network (ECN) of the EU competition authorities. The basic principle of the ECN cooperation is that all EU competition authorities apply the same EU competition rules when the competition restriction has an impact on trade between Member States.
The ECN network was formed to ensure that competition restrictions with an EU dimension are always processed by the national competition authority which, due to its location and the nature of the restriction, is best equipped to handle the matter. Of all competition law cases in the EU, 85 per cent are resolved by the Member State competition authorities and 15 per cent are resolved by the EU Commission. Each year, 150-200 competition restriction cases that have an impact on trade between the Member States are divided between the Commission and EU Member State competition authorities in the network. It has been separately agreed in the ECN network how the allocation of cases between different Member States is carried out, and what rights and obligations the Member State competition authorities have to assist other ECN authorities.
The Member States assist each other in competition affairs in various ways. In 2017, for example, the FCCA received 75 requests for information from other EU competition authorities, asking about Finland’s experiences on a given competition-related matter. Through such assignments, the FCCA becomes aware of cases pending in other countries and can, where applicable, use this information in its own investigations. Cooperation between the Member States saves resources and enables experiences to be shared on the application of alternative resolutions to competition problems.
The FCCA handles issues related to the ECN network on a daily basis. Cooperation within the ECN is mainly confidential and non-public. Continuous dialogue between the competition authorities of the Commission and other EU countries is important in order to remain up-to-date on EU competition law matters and to be able to influence the content of EU competition policy and decision-making practices. In March 2017, the FCCA acted as case rapporteur nominated by the Member States in a cartel matter concerning air freight, in which the Commission imposed a penalty payment of EUR 776 million.
The network also deals with industry-specific antitrust violations, since the questions associated with the competitiveness of a sector are often similar in different countries. Industry-specific ECN working groups focus on food, energy, transport, pharmaceuticals, banking, telecommunications, and environmental issues. In 2017, a new ECN working group specialised in competition matters on the digital market was established.
In spring 2017, the Commission made a proposal for a Directive that aims to further empower the EU’s competition authorities and, hence, the effectiveness of the entire ECN network. The Directive proposal is based on an extensive study carried out by the Commission and the EU competition authorities over several years on the development needs of the ECN network. The FCCA represents Finland together with the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in the working group of the Council of Ministers, which is preparing the Directive in its final form. The goal is that the Directive is approved during this year.
The FCCA also assists the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in cases within the EU Court. Last year, the FCCA received over a dozen preliminary ruling requests on competition matters pending in the European Court of Justice. The task of the FCCA is to provide an assessment for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland on whether Finland should issue a national statement on the preliminary rulings from the perspective of competition law and, in this way, participate in the Court proceedings regarding the matter.
One example of increasing international cooperation in competition matters is also the agreement on the application of EU and Canadian competition laws currently under preparation. The purpose of the agreement is to increase information sharing and cooperation between EU and Canadian competition authorities, and to enhance competition enforcement in a situation where the effects of competition infringements increasingly often extend across borders.
With respect to the EU, the agreement concerns matters related to competition infringements and merger control, which are processed by the Commission. As the agreement will be concluded between the EU and Canada, Finland and the other Member States are not parties to the agreement and are not required to enforce the agreement.