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ACM fines online store’s owner for obstruction of investigation

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on the owner of an online store that sells accessories for mobile phones (such as chargers and cables) for obstruction of an investigation into possible violations. ACM had launched an investigation into this online store following complaints filed by consumers. On multiple occasions, ACM asked the owner for information. The owner did not respond to ACM’s requests. ACM is only able to conduct effective oversight if businesses and individuals cooperate with activities as part of its oversight efforts such as investigations. Businesses and individuals are statutorily required to cooperate. That is why ACM imposes a fine of 10,000 euros on the online store’s owner.

Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Our oversight is aimed at making sure that consumers are able to make online purchases with confidence. To that end, we take action against businesses that violate the rules. In that context, it is important that we as a regulator are able to do our job. That is why businesses and individuals are required to cooperate with such investigations. With this fine, we are sending a clear message: cooperating with ACM investigations is not optional.”

What was this case about?

The online store sold accessories for mobile phones, laptops, smart watches, and so forth. This website has already been taken down. In 2021, ACM received many reports from consumers about this online store, and launched its own investigation. ACM investigated whether this online store complied with consumer protection rules. In its investigation, ACM attempted to contact the online store’s owner, and, on multiple occasions, demanded information that it needed for its investigation.

Since the owner failed to respond to ACM’s demands, ACM has now decided to impose a fine. After all, ACM’s enforcement of compliance with consumer protection rules oversight efforts were seriously hindered. The maximum fine that ACM is able to impose for non-cooperation is 900,000 euros. The fine that has been imposed is significantly lower, taking into account the online store’s size and the fact that the fine is imposed on a natural person. The owner still has the opportunity to file an objection against ACM’s decision.

The digital economy

The digital economy is one of the key priorities on ACM’s Agenda. The starting point is that consumers are fully able to reap the benefits of the digital society. With our oversight efforts, we help realize that objective.

More in this case

19-07-2022 ACM imposes fine on online store’s owner for obstruction of an investigation (in Dutch)