"Proceed on Green" - Swedish Competition Authority offers on-line guidance tool

06 May 2009

Henrik Nilsson

On 20 April 2009, the Swedish Competition Authority (SCA) began offering a web-based guidance tool to support industry and trade organisations in organising their cooperation while not breaking competition regulations.

A study by the SCA published in April 2008, which was based on a survey of 479 Swedish trade associations, found that approximately one third of these organisations performed actions that appeared to infringe competition law. The report is available from the SCA here http://www.kkv.se/upload/Filer/Trycksaker/Rapporter/rap_2008-1.pdf (in Swedish only).

Organisations serving industry in the markets for electrical supplies, tyres, road salvage, plumbing and grocery retail have been the subject of SCA investigations in recent years, in some cases causing the SCA to bring legal action.

In an innovative attempt to assist organisations and their members in restricting their activities to matters complying with the regulations, the SCA’s on-line tool operates on a green-amber-red warning light system.

Actions such as training, one-directional information gathering, general lobbying of government and authorities, drafting of standard agreements and the provision of legal advice are seen as non-controversial and given the green light without further comment. Pricing calculation formulae and information exchanges are listed under the amber light as problematic; clickable links ask questions to obtain further details before providing guidance to the user. Pricing cooperation, price recommendations, restrictions on production or sales and market sharing are shown the red light.

The Swedish market has a history of influential trade and industry organisations as well as a “get along” tradition which does not sit well with modern competition law. The first Swedish Competition Act was enacted in 1953, but according to some observers it was not until Sweden’s first modern Competition Act of 1993 and its accession to the EU in 1995 that competition law begin to make a real impact on the Swedish market. The SCA’s new outreach initiative therefore fills a need and is to be welcomed.

Source: SCA guidance tool at http://www.kkv.se/t/CalculationSupportStart____4502.aspx (in Swedish only)