How we prioritise our competition enforcement efforts
We have a responsibility to use our resources as efficiently as possible. That is why we need to prioritise between our various competition enforcement cases. We focus on investigating issues that are of a general interest and that lead to clear results.
On this page you can see how we prioritise our competition enforcement efforts. We have a prioritisation policy that is used in the initial prioritisation, when we select which issues to investigate further. Various circumstances are then weighed against each other. Not all the factors that we consider in the prioritisation process must be fulfilled; this is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Although the prioritisation policy is initially applied, throughout the investigation we also continuously assess whether investigation of the case should continue. Available resources and the number and scope of other ongoing investigations, including reviews of concentrations, may influence our need for prioritisation. There may be several reasons why the Swedish Competition Authority closes investigations at a later stage without action, but it is not the prioritisation policy we rely on then.
Promote effective competition
We focus on investigating issues that are of a general interest and that lead to clear results. The aim is always to promote effective competition in private and public activities for the benefit of consumers.
The prioritisation policy serves not only to prioritise among tip-offs and complaints received by the Swedish Competition Authority. The policy also serves to identify the most serious indications among the signs we observe in the market. Tip-offs received are important, but we have multiple tools for identifying infringements also without the help of outside informants. We use media monitoring, but may also find suspected infringements through statistics on public procurements and other open sources.
Case prioritisation with respect to the Swedish Competition Authority’s power to order the filing of a concentration below the notification thresholds is not encompassed by this policy.
Factors that we weigh into the prioritiasion
In the choice between multiple cases that fulfil one of the grounds for prioritisation below, harm to competition and consumers is the priority factor that is ascribed the greatest weight. If we see signs of serious harm, priority will always be given to the issue, provided that we see a viable way of investigating and intervening to address the problem with the support of the competition rules.
In prioritising competition law enforcement, we weighs in the following factors:
In assessing the capacity of the conduct in question to cause harm to competition and consumers, we take into account the benefits of intervention for a larger group of consumers, as well as the importance, from a socioeconomic perspective, of eliminating the anti-competitive conduct in question or imposing a deterring sanction.
Corruption, conflicts of interest and other conduct that may undermine public trust are harmful to competition and consumers. Such conduct also has the capacity to facilitate and aggravate infringements of the competition rules. It is not uncommon for competition law enforcement cases to also contain elements of corruption. These can, in and of themselves, be an indication that the conduct in question may cause damage to competition and consumers.
Cooperation between competitors
Cooperation between competitors (so-called horizontal cooperation) may result in significant harm to consumers. The Swedish Competition Authority takes a serious view of undertakings jointly setting sales prices, limiting or controlling production or dividing markets between them. We give high priority to investigating and taking action against anticompetitive cooperation, in particular cartels.
Cooperation between non-competitors
Cooperation between undertakings active in different levels of the supply chain (so-called vertical cooperation) generally contributes to efficient distribution and increased competition. However, under certain conditions, it may result in restrictions that harm competition and consumers.
We prioritise vertical restrictions that have the capacity to harm effective competition at any level of the supply chain. In our prioritisation, we give particular consideration to the share of the relevant markets that is affected by the restrictions, the market power held by the parties engaged in the cooperation and how concentrated the markets are.
If there are other similar instances of cooperation on the market, this may increase the likelihood that we prioritise a case.
Abuse of a dominant position
The desire of undertakings to attain and maintain market power and profitability is a key driving force for competition. However, under certain conditions, unilateral conduct by dominant undertakings may result in harm to consumers, either directly or by causing harming to competition.
In particular, we prioritise conduct that has the capacity to limit other undertakings’ ability to exercise effective competitive pressure at any level of the supply chain. In our prioritisation, we give particular consideration to the share of the market that is affected by the conduct and, in the case of input foreclosure, to what extent the input is essential to enable effective competition on the market.
In assessing price-based conduct, we also consider whether the pricing in question is capable of excluding a competitor that is hypothetically as efficient as the dominant undertaking. We may also prioritise investigating exploitative abuse if a dominant undertaking is directly exploiting customers and consumers as a result of the non-functioning of competition.
Anticompetitive public sales activities by public entities
When public entities (the Swedish state, municipalities and regions) operate on a market which is open to competition, this may lead to distortion of the conditions for effective competition or may hamper the existence or development of such competition. We prioritise cases where the conduct of the public entity in question, or its presence on the market, hamper or distort the long-term conditions for effective competition.
This may be the case when the public entity’s sales activities decrease the incentives or possibilities for private undertakings to operate on the relevant market. This may lead to private undertakings being hampered in their development or growth or being forced to close their business entirely or partially, or new private undertakings finding it difficult to establish themselves or expand.
As a public agency, we have a responsibility to use our resources in the most efficient manner possible and therefore weighs the expected use of resources against the benefits of intervention. In this assessment, we give particular consideration to whether conditions exist to effectively investigate the case, and to apply the competition rules to remedy the issue in an effective manner.
When an individual enforcement case is not deemed an effective way to achieve results, in some cases we may opt to address the issue in a different manner, for instance through an official letter to the government or a published report.
We takes into account if a case is expected to have a deterrent effect or if there is a need for guidance among a larger group of actors. This means that a case may be prioritised where an intervention or a reasoned decision to close a case can prevent undertakings and other market actors from infringing the rules and where we, through our enforcement, can clarify how to act correctly.
There may be a need for guidance if an infringement is considered to be commonly occurring or if intervention is important in order to create a deterrent effect. This could be the case where the legal position is unclear or where rules have not had the effect that the legislator intended.
We may entirely refrain from intervening in cases where another agency or actor is better placed to intervene. Where another government agency has more appropriate tools to address a particular competition or market issue, we may choose to not prioritise a case.