Competition Act Amended – Investigative Powers of The FCCA to Be Expanded and Merger Control Deadlines Lengthened

The President has 7 June 2019 ratified the laws by which the amendments to the competition act will enter into force mainly on 17 June 2019.

In dawn raids, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) now has the power to make working copies of the investigated material and continue the inspection later in its own premises. The target undertaking and its representatives have the right to be present during the inspection regardless of where it is conducted. The investigative powers of the FCCA will apply irrespective of the storage medium, which means that mobile phones and tablets used for private purposes may also now be subject to inspection.

Authorities Increase Cooperation

The exchange of information between national authorities has been increased, e.g. by expanding the list of authorities to which the FCCA may disclose information and documents without prejudice to the confidentiality rules. Moreover, the Tax Administration may also on its own initiative disclose tax information to the FCCA that may be relevant to the monitoring of competition restrictions. Also, authorities engaged in combating the grey economy may prepare a corporate responsibility statement in the context of monitoring restrictions on competition.

Unbundling Obligation as of the Start of 2020

The act will also contain an obligation for unbundling accounts in bookkeeping for municipalities, federations of municipalities, the state and entities controlled by them in a competitive market situation where they are engaged in economic activity. The obligation will be reinforced by a penalty payment. The obligation does not apply to entities whose annual turnover derived from said activities is less than EUR 40,000. The obligation to keep separate accounts will enter into force on 1 January 2020.

Extended Merger Control Processing Times

Merger control deadlines have been extended. The deadlines are now calculated in working days instead of calendar days. The Phase I processing time will be 23 working days (previously one month) and the deadline for the Phase II will be 69 working days (previously three months). The Market Court may still extend the Phase II processing time by a maximum of 46 working days (previously two months).

In order to expedite the merger control process, it is important to undergo a pre-notification phase before the filing itself and to ensure that the notification includes all of the necessary information. The FCCA emphasised this point in a seminar it held on 22 May 2019. The FCCA’s presentation from the seminar is available in Finnish here