The Supreme Administrative Court ruled Thursday to uphold a decision by Finland’s Market court to impose a 70 million-euro fine on Finnish dairy company Valio, for abusing its then-dominant market position to sell milk at below-production wholesale prices.
The ruling marks the close of the final chapter in a legal dispute involving the Finnish dairy company, local competition authorities and main competitor, Denmark-headquartered Arla, over wholesale milk prices in Finland.
The Court found that between 2010 and 2012, Valio exploited its market leader position to sell raw milk at below-market prices.
The decision means that Valio’s competitors may now seek damages from the company in the Helsinki District Court, in a process that could potentially take years.
Valio "disappointed" but case closed
In a release issued Thursday, Valio chairman Vesa Kaunisto said that "the sanction will not affect the price paid for raw milk to the dairy farmer entrepreneurs."
Kaunisto said that the company is disappointed by the decision but added that the case is now closed. However he signaled that the company would now review its investment programme.
"Valio’s strong equity position and cash assets will serve as a buffer. We’ll have to consider the next 10 years investment programs in Finland."
The Market Court first ruled on the case in June 2014, when it imposed the 70 million-euro fine. The matter was referred to the court by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority for abuse of Finnish competition laws, after Arla requested the authority investigate the case.
The competition authority had initially suggested that Valio either pay its producers less, or increase the price of a litre of milk, a recommendation that Valio denounced at the time.