The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is carrying out an investigation into a possible cartel in the food processing sector. As part of that investigation, ACM recently conducted dawn raids at several companies in the Netherlands, and also at a company located outside of the Netherlands, with the help from the regulator in that country. All of these companies are active in the food processing sector.
These companies are suspected of having made secret product-sharing agreements among each other. Such arrangements are prohibited. Product-sharing agreements involve arrangements made between competitors about what company manufactures what product, whereas each company should make these decisions independently of each other. Furthermore, the companies are also suspected of making price-fixing agreements regarding the purchase prices of the agricultural products they process. Finally, the companies are also suspected of making price-fixing agreements regarding the selling price of these products. Such kinds of arrangements harm suppliers and buyers. Suppliers, such as farmers and growers, receive too little for their products, and buyers pay too much for these products.
What are the next steps in the investigation?
Over the next few months, ACM will investigate whether competition rules have indeed been violated. ACM may conclude that the rules have not been violated. In that case, the investigation will be suspended. If ACM does establish a violation, it may result in a fine.
Report any illegal agreements to ACM
Do you have any indications that businesses, traders, and sellers in your sector have concluded illegal agreements? Or would you like to know what type of conduct is allowed? If so, please contact ACM. Do you work in this sector, and wish to remain anonymous when filing a report? Please find out more about how to submit tip-offs anonymously.
ACM and the agricultural sector
In 2019, ACM launched an investigation into a buying cartel in the agricultural sector. That investigation is still ongoing. In addition, ACM has a study carried out each year into the price-formation process of agricultural products, at the request of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). Recently, ACM started enforcing the new Dutch Act regarding unfair commercial practices in the agricultural and food supply chain.