The Food Market Act
The Food Market Act (1121/2018) entered into force on 1 January 2019. The Act contains provisions on the appointment of the Food Market Ombudsman, the mandate of the Ombudsman and the Office of the Food Market Ombudsman. The Ombudsman supervises compliance with the requirements and prohibitions laid down in the Act.
The aim of the Food Market Act is to improve the functioning of the food market and to safeguard the position of disadvantaged operators in the food supply chain.
The Act also includes provisions on:
- A documentation requirement that aims to ensure that agreements on the supply of agricultural goods are always in written format.
- The use of unfair contractual terms, practices contrary to good business practices and procedures otherwise inappropriate for the other party.
Powers of the Food Market Ombudsman
The Food Market Ombudsman issues recommendations, opinions and proposals related to the functioning of the food supply chain and informs and advises food supply chain operators on good business practices. According to the Act, before issuing a recommendation, the Food Market Ombudsman must request an opinion from the self-regulating body of the food supply chain, which is the Committee on Food Supply Chain Trading Practices, which is situated at the Central Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, the Food Market Ombudsman may issue notices and public warnings if the conditions laid down in the Act are met. The Ombudsman may initiate a case concerning the imposition of a prohibition and a conditional fine in the Market Court if the trader implements unfair contractual terms or uses practices that are contrary to good business practices. The Food Market Act also contains provisions on the obligation of traders to provide information.
In particular, the Ombudsman must act in matters which are exceptionally important to the functioning of the food supply chain or in which the most significant problems are expected to arise. These may include widely used contract terms or practices.
The matter can be referred to the Ombudsman for consideration by:
- a party to the agreement
- an operator whose operations are targeted in the practical application of the agreement or whose operations may be adversely affected.
- a registered association that supervises the interests of traders
The Food Market Ombudsman may also take up a matter of their own initiative if it concerns an issue that is important for the functioning of the food supply chain.
The EU Directive on unfair trading practices (2019/633) was adopted in April 2019. The Directive must be transposed at national level at latest by 1 May 2021 and applied by 1 November 2021. In Finland, the Food Market Act was amended to comply with the provisions laid down in the Directive.
Amendment to the Food Market Act
The amendments to the Food Market Act entered into force 1.11.2021. The amended Act covers the unfair trading practices laid down in the UTP Directive. In particular, these amendments will protect the disadvantaged contracting party and promote the functioning of the entire food supply chain. The UTP Directive sets a minimum level of regulation and Member States may, if they so wish, implement stricter regulations than in the Directive. The legislative amendment saw the expansion of the Food Market Ombudsman’s duties and powers.