On 5 March 2004, the Council of State under the leadership of the Crown Prince Regent sanctioned the New Competition Act. The Act was approved by the Norwegian Parliament (the Storting) some days earlier.
The Act enters into force on 1 May 2004. The Competition Authority is preparing an English version of the Act.
Prohibitions and merger control
The new Competition Act is partly harmonized with EU competition rules and includes prohibitions against cartels and abuse of dominance.
A pre-merger notification system is introduced. The test for prohibiting concentrations will continue to be that the concentration would create or strengthen a significant restriction of competition.
Fines and leniency
The Competition Authority is given new powers to issue administrative fines for violations of the prohibitions of the Act. The Authority will also be able to report cases for criminal processing, as is the case under the present 1993 Competition Act.
Companies or individuals that cooperate with investigators may have their fines or punishment reduced according to a new leniency program.
Three changes introduced by the Storting
The Storting introduced three changes to the Government’s proposal of October 2003. In section 1, the purpose of the Act is to encourage competition in order to contribute to the efficient use of resources. The Storting added that when applying the Act, special consideration to consumer interests should be taken.
The Competition Authority is through an amendment in section 9, explicitly instructed to give guidance to undertakings about the interpretation of the Act and its application in actual cases.
In the present 1993 Competition Act, there is an exception for collaboration on sales of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products. The Government proposed instead to formulate an exception in a regulation given by the Ministry. The Storting decided that such a regulation is to be sanctioned by the Government in plenary.
The Act was approved by the Storting 2 March. The majority consisted of representatives from the three governmental parties, the Christian Democratic Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Party, with additional support from the Progress Party. A minority consisting of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party, and Centre Party wanted to postpone the Act for further review.