The present-day competition regime in the Netherlands came into force with the enactment of the Competition Act on 1 January 1998. The substantive provisions of the Competition Act mirror those of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Competition Act prohibits anticompetitive agreements and the abuse of a dominant position. In addition, the Competition Act has a system of domestic merger control. The Competition Act established the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) as the domestic body responsible for the enforcement of competition law.
On 1 April 2013, the NMa merged with the independent Post and Telecommunication Authority and the Consumer Authority into a single regulator, the Consumer and Market Authority (ACM). The ACM is responsible for the enforcement of competition law, consumer protection law as well as sector-specific regulation in the energy, transport, postal and telecoms sectors.
The enforcement procedure in the Netherlands is typically administrative in nature. If the ACM finds that an undertaking has violated the Competition Act, it may take a decision imposing a (substantial) administrative fine. In addition, the ACM may impose fines on individuals to the extent that such individuals were in charge of the prohibited conduct. Recently, the ACM published guidelines for the simplified resolution of cases involving a fine.2 According to these guidelines, the ACM may apply a simplified procedure to resolve a case if the undertaking or individual in question is prepared to acknowledge the violation and accept the fine for that violation. The party involved will be granted a reduction of 10 per cent on the fine for cooperating with the ACM. These guidelines are similar to the European Commission's settlement procedure, which requires the party in question to acknowledge, inter alia, liability for the infringement.
As a standard element of Dutch administrative law, an internal appeal may be lodged against the first ACM decision imposing a sanction, after which the ACM must reconsider and take a second decision. The latter decision is open to appeal before the District Court in Rotterdam. A second and final appeal may be brought before the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal in The Hague.
Apart from public enforcement by the ACM, competition law cases in the private courts are starting to become more common. This includes not only follow-on actions for damages, but also cases in areas where the ACM is unlikely to act, such as in the field of vertical restraints and abuse of dominance (as explained in more detail below).
Early in 2018, the ACM identified four strategic themes on which it would focus in 2018 and 2019:
- the digital economy;
- energy markets in transition;
- ports and transport; and
- medicine prices.
Article 6(1) of the Competition Act provides the prohibition on anticompetitive agreements. Its wording is similar to that of Article 101 TFEU. The provision prohibits agreements between undertakings, decisions of trade associations and concerted practices between undertakings to the extent that they have an anticompetitive object or effect on the Dutch market. Differing from Article 101 TFEU, the Dutch prohibition does not require an effect on interstate trade.
Article 6(3) of the Competition Act provides an exception to Article 6(1) of the Competition Act and is similar to the exception laid down in Article 101(3) TFEU. Article 6(3) of the Competition Act holds that the prohibition does not apply to agreements, decisions and concerted practices that (1) contribute to improving the production or distribution of goods, or to promoting technical or economic progress, while (2) allowing customers a fair share of the resulting benefit, and that do not (3) impose restrictions that are not indispensable to attain these objectives, and (4) that do not eliminate competition in respect of a substantial part of the relevant products and services.
Article 7 of the Competition Act seeks to exempt agreements between small and medium-sized enterprises that would otherwise be prohibited under Article 6(1) of the Competition Act. Article 7(1) of the Competition Act provides that undertakings are allowed to make (otherwise anticompetitive) agreements if not more than eight undertakings are involved, and the joint year turnover amounts to a maximum of €5.5 million for goods and €1.1 million for services. Article 7(2) of the Competition Act contains the second exemption. It provides that the cartel prohibition does not apply if the aggregate market share of the parties is below 10 per cent. However, this exemption is not applicable if the concerned agreement falls within the scope of Article 101(1) TFEU.
The competition rules before the Competition Act did provide for criminal sanctions, even though in actual practice there was little, if any, enforcement. By contrast, the current Competition Act does not contain a criminal sanction regime. Notwithstanding the above, an administrative fine may still be considered as a 'criminal charge' within the meaning of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Since 1 July 2016, the fine for cartel infringements may be up to 10 per cent of the turnover of all the years of the infringement, up to a maximum of four years (i.e., 40 per cent of the annual turnover). The fine for repeat offenders will be doubled, which can lead to a maximum fine of 80 per cent of the undertaking's turnover in the preceding business year.
The Netherlands has a leniency regime for both companies and individuals. The leniency guidelines grant complete immunity from fines to the first company that presents information to the ACM about a cartel prior to the start of an investigation. Leniency applications must be submitted to the ACM's leniency office. The leniency applicant must provide the ACM with information that has significant added value, and has to fully cooperate with the ACM's investigation. Apart from complete immunity for the first successful leniency applicant, three other categories of fine reductions exist, largely depending on timing and the added value of the leniency applicant's information for the investigation.
The ACM may choose to accept commitments in lieu of further investigating a case. Such a commitment decision needs to ensure that an infringement is either prevented or seized. The ACM may thus take such a decision even where it has found no definitive evidence of an infringement. If the ACM decides to take this route, it must make clear, inter alia, why a commitment decision is more effective from an enforcement perspective. In the case of breach of the commitments, the ACM may impose a fine.
In December 2017, the ACM successfully concluded its first investigation as part of its campaign to improve competition law compliance in the ports and transport sector. After a joint investigation with the German Federal Cartel Office into cartel agreements by harbour towage service providers, the Federal Cartel Office imposed fines on three undertakings as part of a settlement procedure amounting to approximately €13 million.3 According to the ACM, the Federal Cartel Office was the most appropriate authority to conclude the investigation. The ACM thus decided to close its own investigation after the cartelists reached a settlement with the German authority. In addition to the harbour towage service decision, the departing president of the board of the ACM confirmed various investigations in the harbour sector are currently ongoing, including an announced investigation in the bunker sector.
In June 2017, the AMC issued fines in one of the three BWMT investigations,4 resulting in €13 million in fines, concerning price agreements relating to a surcharge for lead in the sale of (imported) traction batteries, which amounted to 10 to 30 per cent of the total sale price of those batteries. In addition to the importers, the ACM also fined the BMWT trade association because it had 'participated in the collusion with an active supporting role', citing the Cement5 and Treuhand6 criteria. In this regard, the ACM notes that:
- the BMWT offered the meeting space;
- the president of the trade association was present during the relevant meetings;
- the association had allowed the topic of the lead surcharge to return on the agenda various times;
- the association had circulated the lead-surcharge lists to the participants; and
- the association had provided secretarial support.
The ACM also reproached the BMWT for not intervening the moment that the agreements were made, and that it had actively followed up on these agreements in the period thereafter.
In July 2017, the ACM closed the other two BMWT investigations7 relating to an information exchange concerning service costs of construction machinery and material handling trucks without finding an infringement. These therefore closed without any fines, despite almost five years of investigation. The Competition Department concluded in its report that there was an 'inherent interplay' between the costs of after-sales services (on the secondary market) and the purchase of the product (on the primary market). The ACM's Legal Department, however, concluded that the investigation report did not demonstrate such an inherent connection between the primary and secondary markets. In particular, the investigation report did not show that the costs of services constituted an important factor in the selection choice of customers, and thereby in the competitive process between the importers of the machinery and trucks (on the primary market). The Legal Department concluded that the (factual) context provided by the investigation team, which formed the basis for the assessment of the behaviour as being anticompetitive, had not been proven. The implicit grounds for not finding an infringement on the secondary after-sales market appears to be the brand-specific nature of the after-sales services, which means that there was no competitive process between the parties.
A few cartel decisions of the ACM were appealed at the District Court of Rotterdam and the Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (CBb) respectively in 2018.
In April 2018, the District Court of Rotterdam annulled four fines the ACM imposed on two undertakings, H&S (€694,000) and Samskip (€901,000), and a de facto executive (two fines of €50,000) for violating the cartel prohibition.8 The undertakings are active in the cold store sector and had exchanged commercially sensitive information with each other, such as price and capacity, according to the ACM. The District Court of Rotterdam upheld the appeals of the two undertakings and the de facto executive. The court considered that the ACM did not interrupt the expiry period of the power to impose a fine in time in relation to the fine imposed on Samskip and one of the fines imposed on the de facto executive. As a result, the limitation period had already expired at the time of the imposition of the fines.9 Regarding the fine imposed on H&S and the second fine imposed on the de facto executive, the court referred to two key points. First, the ACM had provided insufficient evidence that the investigated contacts were part of an overall plan constituting a single and continuous infringement. Second, the ACM's investigation did not sufficiently support its conclusion that the relevant geographic market is national in scope.
In October 2018, the CBb reduced fines imposed in relation to an industrial-laundry cartel. Four cooperating laundries had entered into franchise agreements (as franchisees) with their joint subsidiary (as franchisor), in which they allegedly divided the market into territories and agreed not to acquire customers outside their own territory. On appeal, the CBb held that the existence of the franchise agreements is without prejudice to the fact that the arrangement is predominantly horizontal in nature and came down to a by object restriction of competition on the market. Nevertheless, the CBb considered that in determining the gravity of the violation, the ACM did not give sufficient weight to, inter alia, the fact that the cooperation between the laundries bears a certain resemblance to a franchise organisation. The CBb therefore reduced the fines imposed by the ACM.
In October 2018, the CBb upheld the fines imposed by the ACM on three collectors of sea-going ships' waste in the Rotterdam port area for distributing orders among them.10 This was evident from intercepted telephone conversations, the reports of which had been made available to ACM by the former Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. On appeal, the District Court of Rotterdam had held that the infringement lasted four months shorter than assumed by the ACM and therefore reduced one of the fines imposed. However, this decision was overturned by the CBb, considering that the ACM had sufficiently substantiated the duration of the infringement. The CBb recalled that as follows from settled case law, it is for the competition authority to adduce precise and consistent evidence to prove the existence of the infringement. However, not every means of proof adduced necessarily has to fulfil these criteria for each part of the infringement. It is sufficient that the collection of evidence adduced by it, taken as a whole, satisfies that requirement. The CBb concluded that the ACM had satisfied this requirement.
In March 2018, the ACM declared binding commitments offered in the case of KLM/Schiphol in 2017.11 According to the ACM's (preliminary) research, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Schiphol) had frequent contact with each other regarding the utilisation of airport capacity, and regarding Schiphol's plans for airport facilities, its investments and marketing strategy, and airport charges. The ACM feared that due to these interactions, Schiphol would not set its strategy independently, but would change it to accommodate KLM's wishes. The parties involved committed themselves not to have any contact about growth opportunities of other airlines, and to Schiphol independently developing its own plans for investments, charges and its marketing strategy.
III ABUSE OF DOMINANCE
Article 24(1) of the Competition Act prohibits the abuse of a dominant position. The Dutch prohibition is substantively the same as that found in EU competition law (with the exception that the Dutch prohibition does not require an effect on trade between Member States). A dominant position exists where an undertaking can exert market power. As in EU competition law, a rebuttable presumption of dominance exists where the market share of an undertaking exceeds 50 per cent.
In June 2017, the ACM published its decision of 22 May 2017 to impose a fine of nearly €41 million on the Dutch passenger rail transport incumbent, the NS.12 According to the ACM, the NS abused its dominant position on the main railway network during a public tender for public transport services in a region of the Netherlands. According to the decision, the abuse took place on markets adjacent to the market on which the NS has a dominant position, and the two infringements were predatory pricing in the form of submitting a loss-making bid for the regional tender and a combination of impediments that cumulatively constitute abuse of dominance.
The ACM concluded that the loss-making bid submitted by the NS constitutes predatory pricing. The ACM performed an ex ante assessment of the bid, and used the NS' internal investment manual to assess whether the submitted bid was considered as a positive business case. According to the decision, the investment manual prescribes that a business case is considered positive if the internal rate of return is higher than the weighted average cost of capital. The ACM considered that a bid with an internal rate of return lower than the weighted average cost of capital set by the NS constitutes predatory pricing. It also considered that the business case presented in NS' bid was too positive, inter alia, because NS' expectation of the growth of revenue from passengers was too high. The ACM argued that the internal rate of return would be below the weighted average cost of capital if the NS used a more realistic prognosis in its business case.
According to the decision, the second infringement consisted of hiring a director from a competitor and acquiring confidential information from that director; sharing requests for access by competitors with the NS' own bidding team, and delaying and providing incomplete answers to those requests; and favouring the NS' own bidding team by only providing them with important information on revenue from travellers.
In March 2018, the ACM dismissed the NS' internal appeal against the ACM's decision.
IV SECTORAL COMPETITION: MARKET INVESTIGATIONS AND REGULATED INDUSTRIES
The ACM is the regulatory authority in the telecoms, energy, post and transport sectors. These sectors often involve natural monopolies (due to the existence of a network that cannot easily be replicated) or include a former incumbent that still holds an important market position. The regulatory regime typically seeks to replicate the conditions of effective competition as much as possible. For example, where a market party is found to have significant market power (SMP) – the regulatory equivalent of dominance – on an upstream wholesale market while its competitors rely on wholesale access to compete on the retail market, the ACM may impose obligations, often including rules on cost orientation and non-discrimination. As a final remark, the ACM also has various regulatory powers that are unrelated to market power and that apply to all companies active in the sector, as will be shown in the following paragraphs.
In terms of the telecoms sector, the ACM has various tasks such as:
- the registration of telecom companies;
- the allocation of phone numbers;
- ensuring that mobile number portability can take place;
- the protection of various consumer protection clauses; and
- dispute settlement.
The ACM's tasks also include enforcing internet-related legislation, such as Dutch cookie and net-neutrality rules.
The ACM also functions as the national regulatory authority within the meaning of the European telecom directives. Every three years, the ACM conducts a market analysis to assess whether a company holds SMP in a given telecom market. In practice, these market analysis decisions usually focus on the position of KPN (the incumbent telecoms operator in the Netherlands), although these decisions may also relate to a wider group. For instance, the decision on fixed and mobile call termination applies to every phone operator in the Netherlands, as each operator is considered a monopolist for the traffic terminating on its network.
If the ACM concludes that a telecom company holds SMP, it may impose regulatory measures on the wholesale level to ensure competition at the retail level. For example, if the ACM sees a risk of excessive tariffs or margin squeeze (Article 6a.7(1) of the Telecommunications Act), it may require that the wholesale tariffs be cost-oriented (Article 6a.7(2) of the Telecommunications Act). The ACM's market analysis decisions usually have great impact on the telecom companies that are concerned, and as a result are highly litigious.
The ACM also serves as the key regulator for the energy sector. One of its main tasks relates to the transport of energy. The ACM regulates the tariffs of transmission and distribution network operators for provision of access to their network.
The ACM is the competent authority for most of the regulatory rules in the postal sector. As of 1 January 2014, the Postal Act enables the ACM to conduct a market analysis comparable to those performed in the telecoms sector. If the ACM finds that a specific operator has SMP on any given postal market in the Netherlands, it may impose specific obligations (Article 13e-13k of the Postal Act). On 27 July 2017, the ACM found PostNL to be dominant in the markets for small, medium and large users of bulk mail and imposed stringent access regulation and related obligations. This decision was annulled by the CBb on 3 September 2018. According to the tribunal, the ACM had not sufficiently demonstrated that digital communication is not part of the relevant market. Following this judgment, the ACM issued a draft decision finding PostNL to be dominant on the newly defined market for 24-hour business bulk mail (excluding digital communication).13 The ACM is expected to finalise the decision after reviewing comments on the draft decision it received during a public consultation.
Finally, the ACM is also active in the transport sector. In terms of rail transport, the ACM examines whether network operators comply with the principle of non-discrimination as to capacity allocation and applicable fees. The most important operators are Prorail, the operator of all major railways, and Keyrail, the operator of a specific railway route for goods linking the port of Rotterdam with Germany.
In terms of aviation, the ACM is active in the regulation of Dutch airports, such as Schiphol (Amsterdam's international airport). The ACM examines whether airports apply reasonable and non-discriminatory tariffs and conditions for airlines (Article 8.25d(2) of the Aviation Act). Tariffs also need to be cost-oriented (Article 8.25d(4) of the Aviation Act), which means that airports may only charge costs to the extent that they actually relate to aviation or security. The ACM confirmed this principle that Schiphol is not allowed to pass on to airlines the costs of the public-transport card readers and ticket machines located on its premises.14
As a final part of transport regulation, Dutch law requires sea vessels calling at a Dutch port to take on a maritime pilot for navigation through that port. The Dutch pilotage company Loodswezen has a statutory monopoly on providing these services. As a result of this market position, the ACM determines a cost allocation system and sets the tariffs that maritime pilots are allowed to charge, thereby ensuring that no excessive fees apply.
V STATE AID
The European state aid rules directly apply in the Netherlands. Articles 107 to 109 TFEU provide substantive and procedural rules on distortions of competition as a result of state measures involving aid to undertakings, irrespective of the precise form in which the aid is provided.
State aid law is thus a matter for European Commission enforcement rather than enforcement by the ACM. However, the Competition Act does contain specific rules that seek to ensure that governmental bodies themselves do not distort competition. These rules, embodied in Article 25g to 25ma of the Competition Act, are also known as the Act on Government and Free Markets. Both central and decentralised public bodies are subject to the Act on Government and Free Markets.
A key part of the Act on Government and Free Markets is that a public body that enters into economic activities must at least charge the integral costs of that activity (Article 25i(1) of the Competition Act). That provision seeks to prevent activities by public bodies leading to unfair competition with private undertakings where a public body cross-subsidises its economic activities from other public tasks. Another important part of the Act on Government and Free Markets is that governmental bodies may not favour businesses in which they have a say or participate compared to privately owned competitors.
The educational sector and public broadcasters are largely exempt from the rules of the Act on Government and Free Markets. In addition, an exemption applies where the government conducts activities in the public interest or where the European rules on state aid apply.
In October 2017, the ACM published its decision that between 1 January 2017 and 1 November 2017, the municipality of Deventer competed unfairly with private parties by offering its service of protective guardianship free of charge.15 Specifically, the municipality reimbursed only its own service through general funds, while this funding was not available to private parties. This created an uneven playing field between the municipality and private parties. By not charging the integral costs for its service of protective guardianship, the municipality of Deventer violated Article 25i(1) of the Competition Act.
In December 2018, the ACM found that the municipality of Harlingen competed unfairly in its exploitation of commercial trailer slipways.16 The municipality offered its services free of charge, while using public financial resources to cover the costs of its services. In other words, the municipality did not charge the integral costs of its activity to its customers, which is a violation of Article 25i(1) of the Competition Act.
VI MERGER REVIEW
Chapter 5 of the Competition Act provides the rules of merger control in the Netherlands. Similar to other parts of competition law, the Dutch merger control rules are similar (and complementary) to those of EU merger control. The concepts of a merger (or 'concentration') and 'control' are equal to those at the EU level. The ACM also conducts its substantive analysis of mergers in line with the Commission's guidelines. The Dutch and EU merger control systems are also very similar from a procedural perspective, although not identical. A procedural difference is that, unlike a notification at the EU level, Dutch competition rules do not contain a formal requirement of a pre-notification phase. However, in practice, pre-notification talks are often held in cases that are likely to receive more scrutiny. Another feature of the Dutch system is that the waiting period is suspended from the moment that the ACM sends formal questions to the notifying party until the moment that those questions have been answered.
The Dutch thresholds are met in the case of a concentration where the combined turnover of the undertakings involved exceeded €150 million in the previous calendar year. In addition, at least two of the undertakings involved must each achieve a turnover of at least €30 million in the Netherlands. Mergers that meet these thresholds require mandatory prior notification to the ACM. In line with the 'one-stop shop' principle of EU merger control, no notification needs to take place in the Netherlands once a merger has an EU dimension and thus has to be notified with the Commission.
The rules on merger control provide for a two-phase investigation procedure, starting upon notification. The ACM clears most cases in the first phase by deciding that no licence is required for the notified transaction. Where the ACM considers that a more in-depth investigation is necessary, it takes a Phase I decision holding that a licence is required. Phase II starts as of the moment the merging parties file a separate application asking for a licence. It seems that, in practice, the ACM uses a somewhat lower threshold to take a case into Phase II, opting for a more in-depth analysis as soon as it cannot exclude competition issues arising from the merger, rather than the 'serious concerns' test of the Commission.
The basic test under Dutch merger control is the same as the one under EU merger control (i.e., whether the concentration will significantly impede effective competition). Similar to the analysis of the Commission, the ACM examines not only the combined market share, but also factors such as the number of competitors and their respective market shares, the existence of countervailing power from suppliers or customers, entry barriers, etc.
Dutch law prohibits the implementation of the anticipated merger concentration before a notification is made and the waiting period has lapsed or, where a licence is required, before an application is submitted and the ACM has granted the licence.
An exception to the obligation to respect the waiting period is the exemption of Article 40 of the Competition Act. This exemption will only be granted in cases of overriding reasons and on the request of the party that has made the notification. Overriding reasons are deemed to exist if applying the waiting period would cause irreparable damage to the concentration. Of course, such an exemption does not prejudice the outcome of the ACM's substantive analysis. The risk is upon the parties if the ACM does, after its examination, find that the – by now already implemented concentration – represents a significant impediment to effective competition. The ACM has recently granted several exemption requests, especially in the field of retail where many bankruptcies have taken place. In those cases, the ACM seems to see ample reason to grant an exemption to ensure business continuity of retail stores.
Both Phase I and Phase II decisions can be made subject to conditions or restrictions. The purpose of such conditions or restrictions is to remedy any adverse effects on competition that result from the concentration. Remedies can either be suggested by the parties or by the ACM on its own initiative. There are written guidelines indicating the types of commitments that the ACM deems acceptable and the procedure to follow.
In September 2017, the ACM granted a licence for a merger between the two Amsterdam-based academic hospitals, Academic Medical Centre and VU University Medical Centre. The decision came after heavy scrutiny by, inter alia, the Dutch Healthcare Authority and parliament, which heralded tighter reviews by the ACM of healthcare mergers. In late 2017, the proposed merger between the hospitals Stichting Catharina Ziekenhuis and Stichting St Anna Zorggroep was abandoned by the merging parties, after the ACM expressed concerns in its Phase I decision. The parties considered that the chances are too high that the ACM would disapprove of the merger in Phase II now that it has started to monitor hospital concentrations more stringently.
As in 2017, the ACM worked on several healthcare mergers in 2018. In December 2018, the ACM granted a licence for a joint venture of two independent treatment centres, Bergman Clinics and NL Healthcare Clinics. Both parties provide certain forms of specialised medical care, such as dermatology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology. In its Phase I decision, the ACM observed that Bergman Clinics and NL Healthcare Clinics are the largest independent treatment centres in the Netherlands. They both offer approximately half of the total care offered by independent treatment centres in the Netherlands in the fields of orthopaedics and ophthalmology. Consequently, the ACM found that the proposed joint venture may deteriorate the bargaining position of healthcare insurers vis-à-vis that of the merging parties. This could allow the merging parties to charge higher prices after the concentration, thereby raising the possibility that the insured could face higher premiums. Following its in-depth investigation in Phase II, the ACM concluded that the proposed joint venture will not have any negative effect on choice for consumers. Based on its research into patient flows, the ACM concluded that the parties' activities overlap in a few regions only. In those regions where there is overlap, patients will continue to have sufficient alternatives to choose from, such as neighbouring hospitals. Moreover, the ACM considered that the parties are not each other's closest competitors, following an analysis of patient diversion ratios. Consequently, the ACM does not foresee any significant impediment of competition on the relevant market or any deterioration in the bargaining position of healthcare insurers.
In December 2018, the ACM conditionally approved the proposed merger between two pharmaceutical companies, Apothex Nederland BV and Aurobindo Pharma BV. The ACM assessed the potential consequences of the proposed merger in terms of sales of pharmaceutical products, pipeline products, active pharmaceutical substances, production on behalf of third parties and the licensing of files. In the context of pharmaceutical products, the ACM assessed the transaction per individual product, taking the molecular level as the starting point. Where appropriate, the ACM also considered the impact on a possible market at higher levels of aggregation based on Anatomical Therapeutic Classification (ATC) of the medicinal products. Furthermore, the ACM assumes separate markets for the Rx and OTC segments, and within the OTC segment for the retail and pharmacy channels. The scope of the geographic market was defined as national. Following its investigation, the ACM expressed concerns regarding the proposed merger's effects on the sale of dizepam enemas. The ACM considered that the merging parties are currently the only suppliers of dizepam enemas in the Netherlands. Therefore, the merging parties offered to divest Apotex' diazepam enemas business in the Netherlands to a third party. The ACM accepted this remedy and conditionally approved the merger.
The ACM had a relatively low level of enforcement activity in 2018. The ACM's cartel work mainly consisted of litigation on cartels that have been uncovered in earlier years, rather than newly found cartels being fined. In terms of the abuse of dominance, the ongoing case against the publicly owned national railway operator NS still stands out. Merger activity was relatively stable, with the ACM seemingly acting upon its earlier commitments to step up its merger review in the healthcare sector in particular.
1 Iradj Nazaryar is an associate and Tjarda van der Vijver is a senior associate at Allen & Overy LLP. With the kind permission of previous contributors, parts of the previous edition's chapter have remained intact in this edition's chapter.
2 ACM, 'Guidelines for simplified resolution of cases involving a fine' (13 December 2018), available at https://www.acm.nl/sites/default/files/documents/2019-01/acms-guidelines-for-simplified-resolution-of-
3 ACM, 'Collaboration between Bundeskartellamt and ACM leads to fines in towage sector' (press release, 18 December 2017), available at https://www.acm.nl/en/publications/collaboration-between-
bundeskartellamt-and-acm-leads-fines-towage-sector; Bundeskartellamt, 'Bundeskartellamt imposes fines on harbour towage service providers' (press release, 18 December 2017), available at http://www.bundeskartellamt.de/SharedDocs/Meldung/EN/Pressemitteilungen/2017/18_12_2017_Hafenschlepper.
4 Case 7615, available at https://www.acm.nl/nl/publicaties/publicatie/17426/Boete-importeurs-van-accus-vorkheftrucks-voor-prijsafspraken (in Dutch).
7 Cases 7617 and 7618, available at https://www.acm.nl/nl/publicaties/publicatie/17424/Geen-boete-voor-branchevereniging-BMWT-in-zaak-7617 and https://www.acm.nl/nl/publicaties/publicatie/17425/Geen-boete-voor-branchevereniging-BMWT-in-zaak-7618 (both in Dutch).
8 ECLI:NL:RBROT:2018:2777, ECLI:NL:RBROT:2018:2781, ECLI:NL:RBROT:2018:2787 and ECLI:NL:RBROT:2018:2818.
9 Pursuant to Article 64 of the Competition Act, the authority to impose a fine lapses five years after the infringement has taken place.
12 ACM decision of 22 May 2017, available at www.acm.nl/en/publications/publication/17397/Dutch-Railways-NS-abused-its-dominant-position-in-regional-tender-process.
13 ACM draft decision of 24 December 2018, available at https://www.acm.nl/en/publications/public-consultation-conditions-access-postnls-24-hour-postal-services.
14 ACM decision of 14 July 2015, available at https://www.acm.nl/sites/default/files/old_publication/publicaties/14494_goedkeuring-toerekningssysteem-schiphol-2016-2018-2015-07-10.pdf (in Dutch).
15 ACM decision of 31 October 2017, available at https://www.acm.nl/en/publications/dutch-municipality-
16 ACM decision of 27 December 2018, available at https://www.acm.nl/sites/default/files/documents/2018-12/gemeente-harlingen-overtreedt-wet-markt-en-overheid-met-exploitatie-trailerhelling.pdf (in Dutch).