Last year, open-access operators MRT Express and Saga Rail complained to the Competition Authority that SJ was preventing them from selling their tickets through the SJ website, and Saga Rail decided to suspend its service as a result.

The Competition Authority now recognises that “SJ’s booking channels are completely dominant online when selling commercial passenger train tickets in Sweden.”

The Competition Authority notes that the difficulties faced by the private operators are “part of a larger market problem” and that the real problem is SJ’s strong position on the train market in combination with its position as the central sales channel. The Authority says that Sweden’s Competition Act is insufficient to solve the problem because even though SJ might be forced to give other operators access to its website through court action, this would not solve the basic problem of SJ's market dominance. The Authority also points out that there is a risk of inhibiting innovation and the development of competing websites.

Alternatives to the regulation of ticket sales are the creation of a competition-neutral train booking website or forcing all operators to sell all other operators’ tickets and make their own tickets available through the websites of their competitors.

MTR Express

“It is of course very positive that the Swedish Competition Authority not only shares our view but also notes that the problem with SJ's dominant position is greater than the issue of MTR Express’s access to,” says Mr Mats Johannesson, CEO of MTR Express. He points out that is “very unusual” for the Competition Authority to write such a letter to the government. Johannesson says MTR Express looks forward to the minister of infrastructure Mr Tomas Eneroth enacting on the promise made by the minister of business affairs Mr Mikael Damberg in the Swedish parliament that the government would follow recommendations made by the Competition Authority.

Following its decision to write to the government, the Competition Authority has now closed the case.

"It is encouraging that the Swedish Competition Authority has written off the case," SJ said. "We cannot interpret it in any other way than they have not found grounds for intervention according to the competition legislation.

"The Swedish Competition Authority further describes something that they perceive as a fundamental competition problem, which they consider should be dealt with through regulation.

"The Swedish Competition Authority has asked the government to appoint an inquiry," SJ says. "This means that it now becomes a political issue whether the legislation will change in the future."