Last year, the shocks on the energy market had a major impact on the work of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). As a result of the sharp increases in energy prices, ACM tightened its oversight of the energy sector. In 2022, it became fully apparent that the energy market did not (and does not) automatically work well for all people and businesses. In its 2022 Annual Report, ACM argues that unstable markets call for a robust and agile regulator to prevent undesired outcomes for people and businesses. 2022 was a year in which all members of society were hit hard by the volatility on the energy market.
Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, adds: “Rapidly changing markets call for stricter oversight than do stable markets. In April 2023, ACM will celebrate its ten-year anniversary as market authority. By combining consumer protection, competition oversight, sector-specific regulation, and consumer education, ACM is able to use different tools in a flexible manner in order to help ensure that markets work well, now and in the future. Each era and each market calls for a different solution. ACM will continue to evolve and adapt accordingly.”
Oversight of the energy market
In 2022, ACM increased its focus on the energy market as a result of the sharp increases in energy prices. For example, we tightened the requirements that energy suppliers must meet, and we compelled them to comply with the statutory minimum of 30 days of advance notice for price increases. We conducted additional checks to see whether energy suppliers were sufficiently prepared for the winter period. We also gave a boost to the energy transition by ensuring that grids could be utilized more efficiently. ACM will keep a close watch on the energy market in 2023 as well.
What else did ACM achieve in 2022?
In 2022, ACM also focused on its other key priorities: the digital economy and the housing market. ACM devoted attention to online misleading practices and access to online platforms. With regard to the housing market, ACM looked into consumer protection against unfair practices by rental agencies and realtors. ACM was additionally involved in many other cases. Below is a brief summary.
In 2022, ACM achieved the following
- We ran two awareness campaigns, enabling consumers to shop online more safely.
- We took action against aggressive and misleading practices by locksmiths, among other providers.
- Rental-housing websites must inform clearly about the services they do and do not offer homeseekers.
- We compelled energy suppliers to comply with the statutory minumum of 30 days of advance notice for informing consumers about any price changes.
- System operators are able to connect more producers or buyers of electricity to the grid, thanks to the code decision regarding congestion management.
- Postal operator PostNL was fined 2 million euros for failing to meet the statutory requirement for on-time delivery in 2019.
- Telecom operators KPN and Glaspoort lowered the access tariffs for their fiber-optic networks after we had identified concerns with the higher tariffs that were charged before.
- Apple adjusted its unfair conditions for the App Store after we had imposed an order subject to periodic penalty payments.
- We gave the green light to a pilot project involving the distribution of hydrogen in the town of Lochem.
- We tightened our oversight of energy suppliers. They must demonstrate that, when buying energy, they are sufficiently prepared for price fluctuations.
- Drug manufacturer Pfizer discontinued its steering pricing structure that made the entry of new drugs to the market more difficult.
- Sample letters were downloaded over 257,000 times through ACM ConsuWijzer.
- We tackled the misleading sustainability claims of energy suppliers Vattenfall and Greenchoice, and of retail chains Decathlon and H&M.
- 14-03-2023 2022 ACM Annual Report (in Dutch) – An English version of the 2022 annual report will be published soon