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Dutch town of Veenendaal favored own municipal car parks

August 30th, 2019: The District Court of Rotterdam has ruled on appeal in this case. For the complete text of that ruling (in Dutch), please refer to this page.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has ordered the municipality of Veenendaal in the Dutch province of Utrecht to set cost-covering tariffs for municipal car parks and parking garages. As a result, unfair competition with commercial parking provider Q-Park will come to a halt, which is the operator of two parking garages in Veenendaal.

According to Q-Park, the municipality competes unfairly because its tariffs for the municipal parking garages and car parks are too low. That is why Q-Park filed a complaint with ACM in early-2017.

Do not compensate losses with taxpayers’ money

ACM’s investigation has revealed that Veenendaal indeed does not include all costs in the parking tariffs of municipal parking garages and car parks. The municipality has suffered losses on the commercial exploitation of municipal parking garages and car parks. Veenendaal has compensated these losses with, among other things, taxpayers’ money. As a result, it is able to offer low tariffs for its parking garages and car parks. That is unfair competition.

According to the Dutch law on competitive neutrality, the Dutch Act on Government and Free Markets, a municipality is not allowed to use public funds, such as taxpayers’ money, for activities that a commercial company is also able to carry out. That is why ACM wants Veenendaal to adjust its tariffs or to take other measures in order for them to comply with the Dutch Act of Government and Free Markets.

Fair competition

There are special rules in place for governments that engage in commercial activities. These rules are laid down in the Dutch Act on Government and Free Markets, and make sure that the government does not compete with businesses unfairly. ACM keeps a close watch on these rules.