The Finnish Market Court imposes only moderate fines in the Bus Cartel case
On 14 December 2017, the Market Court handed down its judgement in the Bus Cartel case, where the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (“FCCA”) had proposed fines up to EUR 38 million in total for the Finnish Bus Association, Matkahuolto and the bus transportation companies involved. The FCCA had found that the undertakings had, since 2008, infringed competition rules by engaging in prohibited cooperation between competitors.
The Market Court agreed with the FCCA in finding that by closing off new entrants on the scheduled services market from the information and ticket sales services provided by Matkahuolto and secondly, by prohibiting the transportation of cargo from these new operators, the companies had attempted to restrict competition. The conduct lasted, in varying degree, from 2010 up until 2015. The Market Court found that the practices may have made it more difficult for new competitors to enter the market, but they were not capable of preventing such entry completely.
The Market Court, however, dismissed the FCCA’s findings and found that the companies had not engaged in restriction of competition in the context of discussions and negotiations relating to the representation of interests conducted by the Bus Association. The Market Court also dismissed the claims of the FCCA alleging that discussions and complaints relating to the opposing of scheduled service permits, as well as the service contract reform of Matkahuolto, restricted competition.
The judgement of the Market Court was therefore a bittersweet victory for the FCCA, as the Market Court imposed fines of only EUR 100 000 on each undertaking, or EUR 1.1 million in total as opposed to the EUR 38 million the FCCA had proposed.
According to news reports concerning the case,, the FCCA has announced that it will be appealing the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.