Government proposes changes to the Competition Act
On 24 May 2018, the Government put forward a number of amendments to the Competition Act. The following presents the main proposals relating to investigation proceedings, merger control and competition neutrality.
The proposal contains a number of amendments relating to the inspection procedure. The FCCA would have the right to take temporary copies of data, and continue the inspection of such collected electronic data at its own premises in addition to those of the undertaking. According to the proposal, such an amendment would enhance the inspection proceedings and would enable the FCCA to go through large amounts of data in a manner which would cause less harm to the undertaking concerned. Additionally, the Act would be amended to clarify that the FCCA has the right to examine the business correspondence, bookkeeping, computer files, other documents, and data of an undertaking irrespective of the medium in which it is recorded (e.g. mobile devices).
The proposal also seeks to enhance the exchange of information between various national authorities. Following the amendment, the FCCA would be given the right to submit information and documents to the prescribed authorities if such information and documentation are necessary in order to carry out certain tasks assigned to the authorities by law. The FCCA would in turn have the right to obtain information necessary for the investigation of competition restrictions or merger control from such authorities, such as the tax authority and the Grey Economy Information Unit.
The Government has proposed to extend the review period in phase I proceedings from one month to 23 working days. Similarly, the review period in phase II proceedings would be amended from three months to 69 working days, and the Market Court could suspend the deadline by 46 working days as opposed to the current two months. The purpose of the amendment is to clarify and unify the duration of merger control proceedings.
The proposal also contains a number of amendments relating to competition neutrality. For example, municipalities, provinces and the state entities engaged in economic activity would have an obligation to keep separate records of that activity.
In addition to the aforementioned, the Government proposal also contains a number of other amendments, e.g. on clarifying the limitations in the scope of application of the Competition Act, prioritizing the tasks of the FCCA, unifying the obligation of an undertaking to submit information, extending the time limits of interim injunctions and extending the use of a shortened application for fine reductions.
While some of the proposed changes are fairly straightforward and uncontroversial, we expect the debate to heat up especially with regard to safeguarding the rights of undertakings and their employees in the context of inspections and with regard to the proposed increased possibilities for various information exchanges between numerous authorities.
As a main rule, the proposed amendments are intended to enter into force as soon as possible.
The Government's proposal (HE 68/2018 vp) is available here (in Finnish).