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The Competition Authority recently ordered Finnish dairy company Valio Ltd to end its abusive pricing practice. The authority also proposed that the Market Court impose a €70 million infringement fine on Valio. According to the authority, Valio made a strategic decision to drop the wholesale price of fresh milk below cost to foreclose the fresh milk market from imported milk; this practice continued for almost three years.
During 2012 the Competition Authority has completed investigations relating to the distribution of pharmaceuticals and published a report on pharmaceutical regulation and the role of pharmacies. The topics reviewed include the single channel distribution system, rules on the substitution of drugs and legislation on pharmaceutical retail sales.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has published for comment a draft bill that would amend the Competition Act. The bill would introduce a sector-specific threshold for dominance in the consumer goods retail market, which would directly affect the two main operators in that sector. It is hoped that the proposal will make it easier for smaller suppliers to enter the distribution chain.
The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a cartel decision of the Market Court against five independent car spare parts wholesalers, rejecting the appeals of both the defendants and the Competition Authority. This is the first time that the Supreme Administrative Court has reviewed a decision which was based on a leniency application.
A report recently published by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy indicates that the ministry has decided to support the merger between the Competition Authority and the Consumer Agency. A government bill for the combined new authority will be issued after the summer and the combined authority could become operational at the beginning of 2013.
The Market Court imposed a €3 million fine on Finnish design firm Iittala Group for minimum resale price maintenance which took place from 2005 to 2007. According to the court, Iittala pressured retailers to follow its instructions on minimum prices for its products and decided maximum discount percentages, as well as the duration of sale campaigns.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that payment of unequal salaries to employees performing the same duties was justified based on different applicable collective agreements. The decision seems to indicate that the prohibition against discrimination does not give the employee a right to receive employment-related benefits based on the collective agreement that is more beneficial to him or her in that situation.
Amendments to annual holiday legislation have recently been proposed. The revisions concern the calculation of holiday pay for employees receiving monthly or weekly pay and the removal of the qualifying period relating to employees who fall ill during annual holiday. Further amendments to the calculation of holiday compensation at the expiry of employment are proposed.
The validity of illegal industrial action and the threat of fines were recently assessed in connection with a strike undertaken by employees of national carrier Finnair. As a temporary precautionary measure, a district court prohibited the action by threating the striking employees with a €2.8 million fine. Since then, both the legal validity of the decision and the size of the threatened fine have been the subject of debate.
The Supreme Court recently held that an employer had no grounds to terminate the employment of an employee engaging in competing activity with immediate effect. However, the employer would have been entitled to terminate the employment with notice. The decision emphasises that the threshold for terminating an employment relationship with immediate effect is very high.
The Supreme Court recently issued a judgment concerning the legitimacy of an employment contract term which stated that the employee's salary also included supplements based on the applicable collective agreement. According to the ruling, in case there are negotiations over the base salary, it should be specified that supplements are paid according to the collective agreement.
The Labour Court recently issued a judgment concerning the right to terminate an employee as a result of repeated sickness-related absences from work. The ruling seems to indicate that although the starting point is that the employer may not terminate an employee due to illness or disability, termination may be acceptable if the frequency of sickness-related absences is unusually high.