The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is conducting an investigation into a possible cartel in the home-decor sector. As part of that investigation, ACM conducted several dawn raids at various businesses earlier this week. ACM suspects that a number of suppliers instruct retailers what prices they should charge their customers for their products. Furthermore, ACM suspects that these suppliers have also concluded illegal agreements among each other about the prices that they charge these retailers.
Price-fixing agreements harm consumers
Competitors cannot conclude any price-fixing agreements among each other about the prices they charge for their products or services. Merely talking to competitors about future prices and expected price trends is prohibited, because this, too, will reduce competition among competitors. If competition is reduced, prices will go up.
Imposing fixed or minimum retail prices on retailers is also prohibited because this has the effect of pushing up prices. Retailers must be able to set their own retail prices completely independently, while ensuring healthy competition with other retailers. Price-fixing agreements harm consumers.
What are the next steps in the investigation?
Over the next few months, ACM will assess whether competition rules have indeed been violated. ACM may come to the conclusion that the rules have not been violated. In that case, the investigation will be terminated. If ACM does establish a violation, it may result in sanctions such as fines.
Dawn raids during the COVID-19 outbreak
This investigation marks the first time since the beginning of the current COVID-19 outbreak that ACM has conducted dawn raids. ACM has taken measures to ensure everyone’s safety when ACM enforcement officers enter office buildings and conduct interviews. Please note that, in all of its actions, ACM always follows the recommendations issued by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
Do you have any tip-offs or would you like to report any illegal agreements?
If you have any indications that businesses, traders or buyers/sellers have concluded illegal agreements, please report those to ACM. Do you currently work in this sector? Please consider submitting your tip-off to ACM (which can also be done anonymously). Are you currently involved in a cartel? You have the opportunity to file a request for leniency.