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Supreme Administrative Court hikes fine in long-running bus cartel case

The court ruled that the bus and coach companies and their lobby group ran a cartel from 2010 to 2015.

Image: Essi Peijariniemi / Yle

Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court KHO has imposed heavier fines on seven bus companies found to be operating a cartel that stifled competition between 2010 and 2015.

The Market Court had previously penalised each of the firms involved in the cartel to the tune of 100,000 euros. However the Court threw out this decision, noting that it did not take into account the varying sizes and turnovers of the companies involved.

The Competition and Consumer Authority, KKV, challenged the ruling and called for million-euro penalties for the bus companies, with the inter-city bus and coach company, Matkahuolto expected to shoulder an eight-million-euro fine.

The Court ruled that given the nature, scale, duration and reprehensible nature of the anti-trust behaviour and Matkahuolto’s role in the enterprise, it would increase the market court sanction to 4.3 million euros.

Lower penalties for smaller firms

The Court ordered Koivisto Auto, one of Finland’s largest bus companies, to pay 2.3 million, while smaller firms such as Väiniö Paunu and Vainio were sanctioned smaller sums such as 600,000 and 500,000 euros respectively. The Savonlinja group instead was required to fork out 400,000 euros and Pohjolan Matka and Pohjolan Liikenne both paid 300,000-euro fines. The Court upheld the 100,000-euro sanction imposed on Turku-based Länsilinjat and the Finnish bus and coach association Linja-autoliitto.

The KHO found that in 2010 seven bus firms and the bus sector lobby group Linja-autoliitto excluded new providers from Matkahoulto’s schedules and ticket sales services as well as parcel delivery services. The intention was to prevent or at least make it more difficult for competitors to enter the market and to maintain the status of players already in the market.

The court found that the anti-competitive behaviour prevented and delayed the liberalisation of the market and delayed opening it up to competition. It noted that the infringement of competition law and union anti-trust regulations continued from 2010 to 2015.