Imposing a fine
If the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has established a violation, it can decide to impose a fine. ACM imposes this fine on the offender and, if necessary, on the individual(s) giving the instructions for the violation or who have played a leading role in it. ACM's fines can amount to up to EUR 900,000 per fine. In some cases, fines can be even higher, and be a percentage of the total annual turnover.
ACM uses the following procedure when imposing a fine. If ACM's enforcement officials suspect a violation was committed, they can decide to launch an investigation. The findings of this investigation are recorded in a report (called a statement of objections), which is subsequently handed over to ACM’s Legal Department (JZ). On the basis of this report, the Legal Department will advise the Board of ACM on whether or not a fine should be imposed, and, if so, the level of the fine. After that, the Legal Department will stop its investigation.
Before the Legal Department formulates its recommendations for the Board of ACM, the offender (or their lawyer) is given the opportunity to express their opinion in writing or orally. The Legal Department will include this opinion in its recommendations. If the Board of ACM does impose a fine, it does so through a fining decision.
Publication of the fine
A public version of the decision will be published on ACM's website.
Legal aid when appealing a fining decision
If you are involved in a fining procedure with ACM, you may wish to receive legal advice. For legal aid, you can contact the following organizations:
- Your legal insurance provider, if you have a one. Inquire if the dispute is covered.
- The Legal Services Counter at www.juridischloket.nl , telephone number 0900-8020 (EUR 0.25 p.min.). The Legal Services Counter is an independent organization where all citizens can receive legal advice and information.
- A lawyer, please visit www.alleadvocateninnederland.nl for further information.
You may be eligible for financial compensation for lawyer fees, depending on your income. Please visit the website of the Legal Aid Board, www.rechtsbijstand.nl , for more information on this.
What if you do not agree with a fining decision?
An objection against a fine can be filed with the Board of ACM within 6 weeks after the fining decision was sent. The objection procedure is initiated by filing an objection. In it, the objector (or their lawyer) can express their objections against the fine. The objection must be signed, and must contain at least the following information: the name and address of the submitter, the date, a description of the decision against which an objection is filed, and the grounds for the objection. This objection will be processed by the Legal Department. During the objection process, interested parties are given the opportunity to be heard at a hearing. The Board of ACM can, if the objection is admissible, decide that the objection is allowed or disallowed.
An appeal can be filed against the Board of ACM's decision on the objection with the District Court of Rotterdam.
Appeal to a higher Court
An appeal may be filed against the District Court's ruling with the Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (CBb), the highest appeal court in the Netherlands for such matters. The Board of ACM can also file an appeal with the CBb.
If you seek to halt publication of the fine, you can apply for a preliminary injunction with the court.
Does the fine (planned or already imposed) exceed your financial strength?
In that case, you have the opportunity to file a financial-hardship request with ACM, which means you request ACM to waive the imposition of a fine (in the sanctioning phase) or to lower the fine (in the objection phase). In order to file such a request, please fill out a financial-strength form (in Dutch) and add any relevant financial documents to substantiate your request.
- Financial-strength form for legal entities (in Dutch)
- Financial-strength form for natural persons (in Dutch)
Please fill out the form as completely as possible, and include all of the relevant information. ACM needs this information in order to be able to assess your request.