In 2021, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will pay extra attention to three focus areas: the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the digital economy, and the energy transition. The digital economy and the energy transition had already been included on the 2020-2021 ACM Agenda. In those areas, many actions have already been taken, which will be continued and expanded this year. Attention for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy is a logical expansion of ACM’s Agenda.
Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, says: “The coronavirus pandemic has enormous consequences for the economy. Some sectors are hit hard, such as the hospitality industry, the events industry, the public-transport sector, and the travel industry. We want to help combat the negative effects of the pandemic on the economy, and to prevent markets from becoming permanently disrupted. As an independent government agency, we have a social responsibility to help find solutions to social problems. The laws that we enforce offer opportunities to do just that”.
For example, ACM allows close collaborations in the health care sector in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, ACM will pay more attention to vulnerable consumers, which are hit harder by the coronavirus. For example, additional educational efforts will be initiated to remind them of their rights. ACM will also launch an exploratory study into the effects of the coronavirus crisis on brick-and-mortar stores. The increase in online shopping, which started during the coronavirus crisis, is expected to be permanent to some degree. This means that, in the near future, more brick-and-mortar stores and shopping malls will stay vacant, and that shopping areas will lose their appeal. ACM will examine whether ACM can play a role in finding a solution to this problem.
The energy transition
The Netherlands faces the daunting task of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. That is why the Netherlands focuses on transitioning to sustainable energy. ACM will offer system operators opportunities for experiments that promote the energy transition, for example, experiments with hydrogen. ACM also foresees that the energy transition will lead to higher costs. Besides sustainability, energy affordability for consumers is also of great importance. That is why ACM will launch a study into energy affordability for consumers, including long-term affordability.
The digital economy
The digital economy offers many benefits, such as comparing and ordering services and products with ease. ACM does its best to ensure that everyone has fast broadband connections. However, digital markets do not always work well for people and businesses. In 2021, ACM will take enforcement action against online misleading practices. In addition, ACM will launch an investigation into the access of payment apps to NFC chips on mobile phones, and it will complete the investigation into the terms and conditions for app stores. A sector inquiry into IT systems in the health care sector will be published in 2021.
What more will ACM do in 2021?
Besides the focus areas on ACM’s Agenda, ACM will do more to ensure that markets work well for people and businesses, now and in the future. For example, ACM will focus on excessive prices of prescription drugs. In addition, ACM will launch follow-up studies into the prices of foodstuff in its agricultural monitor. And ACM will complete an investigation into a possible buyer cartel in the agricultural sector. This year, ACM will also complete investigations into suppliers that put undue pressure on retailers to raise their prices. ACM, together with businesses, will also study the effectiveness of online communications that improve transparency.
14-01-2021 ACM’s activities in 2021