Norway: Konkurransetilsynet - The Norwegian Competition Authority
Norway: from the enforcer
Hans Petter Havås Hanson
Tel: 47 55 59 75 00
Email: [email protected]
Kjell Jostein Sunnevåg
Director of External Relations
Tel: +47 900 48 548
Email: [email protected]
Margrethe Myrmehl Gudbrandsen
Director of Public Relations
Email: [email protected]
Stig Hauge Bendiksen
Director of the Administrative Department
Tel: +47 55 59 75 00
Email: [email protected]
Questions and answers
How long is the head of agency’s term of office?
The Director General’s term of office is six years.
When is he or she due for reappointment?
The position of Director General is due for reappointment February 2028.
Which posts within the organisation are political appointments?
None. The Director General is appointed in Council by the King. However, the appointment is based on assessment of qualifications, and is not political.
What is the agency’s annual budget?
The annual budget for the Norwegian Competition Authority (NCA) in 2023 is 128 million kroner.
How many staff are employed by the agency?
In 2022, the NCA employed 98 people (83.75 full-time equivalent).
To whom does the head of the agency report?
The director General Reports to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.
Do any industry-specific regulators have competition powers?
No, keeping in mind the caveat below.
If so, how do these relate to your role?
Only the NCA enforces the Competition Act. However, some regulatory authorities have regulatory powers that to some extent overlap with competition matters within their respective sectors. Thus, the NCA cooperates formally with the Norwegian Communications Authority, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway and the Norwegian Media Authority.
May politicians overrule or disregard authority’s decisions? If they have ever exercised this right, describe the most recent example.
In Norway, the NCA’s independence in individual cases is secured by law. Even though the NCA can be ordered to deal with a case by the Ministry, it cannot be instructed as to decisions in individual cases.
As a measure to enhance the NCA’s independence, an independent The Competition Appeals Tribunal was established in 2017. The board is now the appellate body for all decisions by the NCA in mergers as well as cartel and abuse of dominance cases. At the same time, the possibility to reverse the NCA's decisions based on public interest considerations was abolished.
Does the law allow non-competition aims to be considered when your agency takes decisions?
The Competition Act only allows competition aims to be considered when taking decisions. The purpose of the Competition Act is to promote competition and thereby contribute to the efficient use of society’s resources.
Concerning merger control, the NCA shall prohibit concentrations that will significantly impede effective competition, in particular as a result of the strengthening of a dominant position (the SIEC-test; Significant Impediment to Effective Competition). This standard harmonises the Norwegian merger control review standard with the EU/EEA merger control rules, and is interpreted in line with EU precedents. One consequence of the new and EU-harmonised standard is a shift in the role of the evaluation of efficiencies. Following the amendment, the NCA no longer can take into account all relevant social economic gains, but focuses on the pro-competitive effects that are likely to benefit consumers.
Which body hears appeals against the agency’s decisions? Is there any form of judicial review beyond that mentioned above? If so, which body conducts this? Has any competition decision by the agency been overturned?
As of April 2017, decisions of the NCA may be appealed to the Competition Appeals Tribunal. This tribunal handles appeals on fines in, inter alia, cartel and abuse of dominance cases as well as merger decisions by the NCA. Parties may appeal to a court of second instance.
The last time a decision was overturned was in 2023. The Supreme Court of Norway ultimately dismissed the NCAs appeal against the Court of Appeal’s judgment, annulling the decision of the Competition Tribunal 27 May 2021 prohibiting the acquisition by Schibsted of Nettbil. In 2022, the Competition Appeals Tribunal repealed the Norwegian Competition Authority’s block of DNB’s acquisition of Sbanken. The Competition Appeal Board also overturned an NCA decision in 2021, when it repealed the NCA decision against Vygruppen for misleading information in a merger case.
Up until 2023, the NCA was not permitted to appeal decisions from the Competition Appeal Tribunal. However, from 20 June 2023, the NCA has litigation competence to further appeal through the court system.
Has the authority ever blocked a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.
The NCA has blocked 17 mergers from when the Competition Act 2004 took effect until September 2023. In 2023, the NCA blocked the ØB Groups acquisition of Betongvare. In 2021, the NCA blocked DNB’s acquisition of Sbanken. However, this was appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, where the Tribunal dismissed the Authority’s decision. In 2020, the NCA prohibited Schibsted’s acquisition of Nettbil. The decision was upheld by the Competition Appeals Board, but was further appealed to court where the Supreme Court finally dismissed the appeal.
Has the authority ever imposed conditions on a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.
From the enforcement of the 2004 Competition Act until September 2023, the NCA has allowed 33 mergers with conditions. In 2022, the NCA approved Bewi’s acquisition of Jackon on conditions that Bewi sold a fish box factory and Jackon’s shares in a fish box factory to a suitable and independent buyer. Also in 2022, the NCA approved Nortura’s acquisition of Steinsland on behavioural conditions. And finally in 2022, the NCA approved Hansa’s acquisition of Royal Unibrew on behavioural conditions.
Has the authority conducted a Phase II investigation in any of its merger filings? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.
Yes. For instance, in all of the described acquisitions above the NCA has conducted a Phase II investigation.
Has the authority ever pursued a company based outside your jurisdiction for a cartel offence? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.
No, the NCA has not pursued any company based outside the NCA’s jurisdiction for a cartel offence.
Do you operate an immunity and leniency programme? Whom should potential applicants contact? What discounts are available to companies that cooperate with cartel investigations?
Yes, regulations adopted pursuant to the Competition Act provide for a transparent leniency programme. The regulations are based on the ECN Model Leniency Programme. Potential applicants may contact the NCA by telephone or email using contact details found on our website. Tip-offs may also be sent through our portal for anonymous notification and encrypted communication with informants.
Is there a criminal enforcement track? If so, who is responsible for it? Does the authority conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions for cartel activity? If not, is there another authority in the country that does?
Yes. The main responsibility for enforcing Norwegian competition regulations, including investigating and responding to offences, is placed with the NCA. The NCA can impose civil reactions for violations (for example, an administrative fine for the company or companies involved). However, Norwegian competition law also has its own penal section. The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime has responsibility for carrying out criminal investigations, including competition crime. Normally, cases referred by the NCA to the Public Prosecution Authority will be of a very severe nature. The NCA has not referred any case since the new Competition Act from 2004 entered into force. Penalties under the penal section of the competition law range from fines (to both companies and persons) to up to six years’ imprisonment.
Are there any plans to reform the competition law?
The government has had suggestion of a market investigation tool on a public hearing in 2023.
When did the last review of the law occur?
The Competition Act was revised in 2023, and effective from 20 June 2023. According to the revised Competition Act, the NCA can now appeal cartel and abuse of dominance decisions from the Competition Appeal Tribunal further in the court system.
Do you have a separate economics team? If so, please give details.
Yes, the NCA has a separate economics team, managed by chief economist Hans Petter Havås Hanson.
Has the authority conducted a dawn raid?
Since 2021, the Authority has conducted dawn raids in four separate cases.
Has the authority imposed penalties on officers or directors of companies for offences committed by the company? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.
No, it would be up to the police to impose penalties on officers or directors of companies for offences committed by the company. However, the NCA may apply for public prosecution. In line with a rule of conditional prosecution, infringements that may lead to criminal sanctions are only subject to public prosecution if the NCA has applied for public prosecution or this is justified by strong public interests.
What are the pre-merger notification thresholds, if any, for the buyer and seller involved in a merger?
Concentrations where the undertakings concerned have a combined annual turnover in Norway exceeding 1 billion kroner shall be notified to the NCA. However, if only one of the undertakings concerned has an annual turnover in Norway exceeding 100 million kroner, notification is required.
For sectors and industries with a structure and degree of concentration that justify an enhanced focus, the NCA has the power to impose an extended duty to notify on specific firms. This implies that the firm must notify everything it does in relation to concentrations.
The NCA also has the power to impose a duty to notify a specific concentration it becomes aware of – even if the related turnover is below the notification threshold levels. The NCA imposes this obligation if it has reason to assume that competition will be affected by the transaction or if other particular considerations indicate that the NCA should examine the case in more detail. This tool is of particular relevance in relation to the analysis of established firms buying start-ups and preventing killer acquisitions.
Are there any restrictions on investments that involve less than a majority stake in the business?
According to the merger regulations, the NCA shall intervene against a concentration if the NCA finds that it will have a significant impediment on effective competition. Regarding restrictions on minority shareholdings, section 16(a) says:
The Competition Authority shall intervene against an acquisition of holdings in an undertaking even if the acquisition will not lead to control of that undertaking […] If an acquisition has been made through successive purchases, it may be intervened against those transactions that have taken place within two years from the date of the most recent acquisition.
Norway: from the enforcer's competition economists
Hans Petter Havås Hanson
Email: [email protected]
Questions and answers
How many economists do you employ?
In 2022, 38 of the total number of employees of the non-administrative staff were economists.
Do you have a separate economics unit?
There is a separate chief economist team with experienced economists with the majority holding a PhD in economics. The rest of the economists work at the three market divisions that handle the cases at the NCA. There are about 50 per cent economists and lawyers working together in case teams at the market divisions.
Do you have a chief economist?
Yes. Hans Petter Havås Hanson has been the chief economist since July 2023. Hanson holds an MSc in applied economics from University of Bergen and a Post Graduate Diploma in EU Competition Law. He started working at the Competition Authority in 2008 and has previously been employed as a special adviser in the Director General’s staff. From 2017 to 2021, Hanson worked at The European Commission, DG COMP and the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in Brussels, during which time he was on leave from his position at the Competition Authority.
To whom does the chief economist report?
The chief economist reports directly to the Director General.
Does the chief economist have the power to hire his or her own staff?
Yes, to a large extent. If there is an opening for a new position at the chief economist team, the chief economist will be responsible for the hiring process and provide a recommendation (ranking of candidates) to the director general.
How many of your economists have a PhD in industrial economics?
There are in total 13 people with a PhD in economics at the NCA.
Does the agency include a specialist economist on every case team? If not, why not?
Yes, all case teams include at least one economist, as well as a dedicated person from the chief economist team, who provides guidance and quality assurance on the economic analyses to the case team.
Is the economics unit a ‘second pair of eyes’ during cases – is it one of the agency’s checks and balances? If not, why not?
Yes, the chief economist team provides a second pair of eyes during cases and thus is one of the agency’s checks and balances. Occasionally, someone from the chief economist team has to head or actively take part in the economic analyses. In this case, this person is transferred to the case team, and a new person from the chief economist team is appointed to review the economic analyses.
How much economics work is outsourced? What type of work is outsourced?
The vast majority of economics work is conducted internally by the NCA. In merger cases, the NCA may outsource data collection by questionnaire surveys, but the processes of defining the questions as well as the economic analyses based on these data are done by the NCA. In some complicated cases, the NCA may ask external experts to provide an opinion note or a report. In cases that go to court, the NCA often uses external experts to give independent testimonies on the case at hand. Finally, the NCA provides funding for research, workshops and conferences in competition policy through a research fund and has occasionally commissioned research reports.