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Blog: A New Phase In Competition Oversight

 |  June 1, 2023

By: Paul de Bijl (Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets)

The implementation of the Dutch Competition Act (Mededingingswet or Mw) in 1998 marked a significant milestone for the Netherlands. This legislation replaced the previous Dutch Economic Competition Act and introduced new regulations pertaining to competition agreements, dominant positions, and concentration control. The impact of this new law was far-reaching, particularly because cartels had long been an accepted practice in Dutch business culture. Under the previous act, cartels were generally permissible. However, with the enforcement of the Mw, cartel agreements became illegal unless they could demonstrate tangible benefits for consumers. Additionally, the Mw empowered authorities to address instances of abuse of dominance and prevent undesirable market concentrations that exceeded a specific turnover threshold.

The introduction of the Mw coincided with the establishment of the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), a predecessor of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). Initially, the NMa faced a daunting task, receiving over 1,000 exemption requests related to the prohibition of cartels. Nonetheless, the NMa swiftly gained a reputation for its effectiveness. For instance, it intervened to block a merger between two prominent convention centers, namely the RAI convention center in Amsterdam and the Royal Jaarbeurs in Utrecht. Furthermore, the NMa played a pivotal role in the investigation and subsequent prosecution of the construction industry fraud case, imposing fines exceeding 100 million euros on hundreds of construction companies for engaging in price-fixing and market-sharing agreements…