Cooperating with our competitors – what are the rules, really

Collaborations with competitors have long been a sensitive topic. As Adam Smith remarked already several hundred years ago, competitors seldom meet without it ending in a conspiracy to raise prices. Of course, the full picture is much more complex. When competitors act together to innovate, to develop new products or to jointly purchase together in order to bring down costs, this may all bring substantial benefits for the consumer in the form of new products and lower prices. But Adam Smith was on to something, some discussions with competitors do indeed have the potential to harm the consumer. And competition law is there to safeguard competition and protect consumers, in part by prohibiting such discussions. Stora Enso works diligently to ensure that we only have discussions with our competitors that are beneficial for the consumer and compliant with competition law. In the following, you will learn about a few safeguards put in place to help you deal with our competitors.

Trade associations
The world of business simply couldn’t function if we did not meet our competitors in certain circumstances, such as at trade association meetings. While trade associations are in the vast majority of cases beneficial, they can also serve as a platform for anti-competitive collusion between competitors. The contact between competitors that participating entails may also lead to an accidental exchange of sensitive information. To tackle these concerns, Stora Enso has set specific guidelines for trade associations. For example, any employee attending a meeting must obtain an agenda, which should also be closely followed during the meeting. If competitively sensitive information is discussed in the meeting, the proper way to handle the situation is to object to the exchange and leave the meeting room. More information about Stora Enso’s guidelines on trade associations can be found here (section 3.2.1.5).

The Sector Conference and Seminar Rule
Sector conferences and seminars serve an important role in business and help to develop the industry in which Stora Enso is active. However, such conferences and seminars may entail competitor contacts and therefore present potential competition risks. Hence, all participation to conferences and seminars where competitors will be present and discussions on market development or outlook etc. will take place must obtain pre-approval from Ethics and Compliance. More information on the Sector Conference and Seminar Rule is available here.

Receiving or sending sensitive information by mistake
Sometimes information might come from our competitors quite suddenly and
unexpectedly. Information sharing between competitors may breach competition law, even if the information is sent by a competitor or a third-party, such as a customer, by mistake. When you receive competitively sensitive information by mistake, you must delete the information immediately without forwarding it and contact Ethics and Compliance. Do not share the information with your colleagues. Similarly, when you by mistake send competitively sensitive information to an outside party that should not have that information, contact Ethics and Compliance immediately. While unfortunate, mistakes do happen, and if properly handled the risks can be mitigated. Learn more about sharing information with competitors here (section 3.2.1.2). 

Public announcements
Stora Enso must comply with certain regulatory and stock exchange requirements in respect of public statements. But public statements in respect of the markets for our products could be perceived as market signaling between competitors and could raise serious competition law issues. For example, statements about future downtime or future pricing policies may allow competitors to align their capacity or pricing with ours. In some cases, there are good reasons for such statements, but in some cases there are not. Ethics and Compliance is here to assist you in these cases. Public communications on competitively sensitive information should be discussed with Ethics and Compliance in advance. Further information can be found here (3.2.1.3).

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