Ports and transport
The ports of the Netherlands, especially the Port of Rotterdam, are key drivers of the Dutch economy. Goods are imported, stored, processed, and redistributed: over 4 billion tons per year in total. Companies that operate in these ports work together a lot, and with great success. Cooperation is definitely needed if they want to process the goods quickly and efficiently, and to transport them from A to B. However, collaborations can also go too far, for example, if companies fix the prices that they charge their customers, or if they share the market amongst themselves. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has found indications that such practices do occur.
The role of ACM
ACM wishes that companies in the ports and those that are active in the port-related transport market compete fairly with one another. A lack of competition in ports and the port-related transport market may lead to higher prices of products, and may also hurt innovation. The Dutch ports, and the Port of Rotterdam in particular, may lose their lead over other ports if those other ports are able to process freight cheaper and in a more innovative way. That is why we carry out investigations into illegal agreements among companies. At the same time however, we wish to point out to businesses the benefits of fair competition, and we wish to educate them about what is and what is not allowed in terms of collaborations with competitors.
Responses to this theme
For the roundtable discussion about this theme, ACM invited other regulators that are active in ports such as the Dutch Customs Administration, the DCMR (the environmental protection agency in the Rotterdam metropolitan area), the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) and the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT). That is how we have been able to gain even more insight into the structure and collaborations in the ports as well as into the potential risks to fair competition. The provocative statements on the dedicated website for the online discussion (denkmee.acm.nl) did not generate a lot of responses. However, we did receive indications of possible abuses in the ports.
For the next two years, ACM will employ a two-pronged strategy: preventing unfair competition by educating companies in the ports and those that are active in the port-related transport market. In addition, we will conduct investigations into companies that violate the Dutch Competition Act. Do you have any tip-offs about potential cartel agreements or specific violations? We would like to hear from you then. Please fill out our tip-off form.