Valio factory in Helsinki. LEHTIKUVA

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The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (KKV) is recommending that the Market Court imposes a €900,000 penalty on Valio Oy. Valio failed to comply with the commitment it made during the acquisition of Heino Wholesale to safeguard price information of competing manufacturers.

In 2021, KKV conditionally approved the acquisition in which Valio acquired Heino Wholesale, a foodservice wholesale business.

The acquisition couldn't be approved as is because Valio would have gained access to pricing information of competing food manufacturers through Heino Wholesale. This access could have affected Valio's pricing decisions, potentially limiting competition among manufacturers when selling products to foodservice customers such as hotels, cafes, restaurants, and public sector institutions.

To address this competition concern, Valio committed to protecting the confidential information of its competitors in a way that would prevent it from reaching individuals responsible for Valio's product pricing within the organization. Data protection was implemented through system limitations, and an independent expert was appointed to oversee compliance.

KKV Recommends a Penalty for a Key Condition Violation

At the end of 2022, Valio notified KKV of a breach in the protection of competitors' price information due to a firewall error in the system. Valio Aimo, responsible for foodservice customer sales, had access to competitors' price information for several months.

KKV asserts that Valio did not adhere to a crucial condition of the acquisition approval, which aimed to prevent the detrimental transmission of competitors' price information.

KKV proposes a €900,000 penalty for this violation. The determination of the penalty will be made by the Market Court.

"This marks the first time that KKV has proposed a penalty for the violation of an acquisition condition. The efficiency and credibility of acquisition control require that the conditions are upheld and that the authority effectively addresses identified violations," stated Director Sanna Syrjälä.

HT

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