The Finnish Transparency Register Act will enter into force on 1 January 2024. The Act aims to increase the transparency of unofficial lobbying activities carried out outside official working groups and hearings. The Transparency Register will contain information on lobbying activities aimed at influencing the political decision-making in the Finnish Parliament and ministries. From the beginning of next year, the Act will introduce a number of registration and notification obligations applicable to a range of companies and non-profit organisations engaged in various forms of advocacy activities and lobbying consultancy.
Lobbying activities covered by the Act
Lobbying with an aim to influence Finnish Parliament or ministries will be notified to the Transparency Register. Contacts aimed at influencing the preparation or decision-making process by promoting a particular interest or other objective must be disclosed. The objectives of lobbying may be related to political, business, environmental or other social interests. It should be noted that disclosure is required for lobbying activities even if they are not related to any formally initiated decision-making process or initiative.
The Act also applies to lobbying consultancy where a company engages in lobbying on behalf of a client or provides related advisory services. Lobbying consultancy refers to activities where a service provider maintains contact with the party being influenced on behalf of the client. Lobbying consultancy services supporting client’s own lobbying activities are also within the scope of the Act and notification requirements.
Certain activities are excluded from the notification obligation. Small-scale lobbying is left outside the scope of the Act, i.e. activities where the number of contacts with the parties being influenced is limited to no more than five during a calendar year. Similarly, the use of ordinary services provided by the authorities and communication related to administrative matters do not trigger notification obligation. Interaction in relation to authorities’ statutory services as well as related advisory services are left outside the scope. Notification is neither required for activities and contacts related, for example, to journalistic purposes, participation in a consultation or in a working group appointed by an authority or participation in public meetings or events.
Targets of lobbying activities
Disclosure to the register is only obliged if the aim of lobbying or lobbying consultancy is aimed at influencing the decision-making of the Finnish Parliament or Ministries. Other lobbying, with an aim to influence, for example, municipal or regional decision-makers, government agencies or other public bodies is not subject to the Act.
The parties influenced by the lobbying in the Parliament include the following:
- Members of Parliament
- Assistants to Members of Parliament
- Staff of parliamentary groups
- Parliamentary officials
With regard to ministries, lobbying directed at the following parties is subject to notification:
- State Secretaries appointed for the Minister’s term
- Special Advisers to the Ministers
- Officials employed by Ministries
- Rapporteurs appointed by the Ministries
A key aspect is the contact between the lobbyist and the party being influenced by lobbying. The form and the direction of the contact are irrelevant. Lobbying and contact with the party being influenced may take the form of a meeting, phone calls, emails or other similar means of contact.
The Act does not require any action on the part of the parties being influenced and they are not subject to any reporting obligations. However, the party influenced has the right to request that any incorrect or incomplete information submitted to the register be corrected.
Information submitted to the Transparency Register
Operators engaged in activities subject to the Act are required to submit a registration notification to the service maintained by the National Audit Office of Finland no earlier than 1 January 2024 and no later than the end of March 2024. The registration notification contains basic information on the operator as well as information on its primary activities and possible memberships to associations engaged in lobbying.
The first operating notifications on the lobbying and related consultancy activities performed during the period from April to June must be submitted to the Transparency Register by the end of August 2024. Thereafter, operating notifications will be submitted twice a year, by the end of August for activities carried out from January to June, and by the end of February for activities carried out from July to December.
The scope of information disclosed in the operating notifications depends on whether the activities are lobbying or lobbying consultancy. In the case of lobbying, disclosure includes the party contacted in the Parliament or at in the ministry, the topics covered and the contact methods used for the communication. Lobbying consultants must disclose their client’s name and contact details, a description of the target and subject matter of the activities and information on the type of assistance and services provided to the client.
Financial information is notified once a year for the previous calendar year. For lobbying activities, the reported information covers the number of person-years spent on lobbying, marketing costs and costs invested in lobbying consultancy services. For lobbying consultants, the financial information submitted covers the turnover of the lobbying consultancy business.
The information submitted to the register will be available to the public online for a period of 10 years.
As the Act will enter into force and registration will begin in one month, operators engaged in lobbying or lobbying consultancy must be prepared for the new obligations. As the threshold for registration is low, companies will need to carry out all necessary self-assessment and identify whether they are engaged in activities to the extent that the obligation to register and report is triggered. It is also advisable to think through the processes in advance, in particular how the data required for the notifications will be collected within the organisation as smoothly as possible.
Please contact the undersigned or your usual Borenius contact if you have any questions regarding this Legal Alert.