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Mobility service provider Pon and Dutch Railways NS are conditionally allowed to create travel app together

Dutch Railways NS and Pon are allowed to create a new company, which will operate an app that allows consumers to plan, book and pay for their trips, combining different modes of transportation. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has cleared this joint venture on the condition that NS offers its train services and the bikes in its bike-rental system (OV-fiets) to the new company’s competitors under the same terms and conditions. In that way, other companies will also be able to create competitive travel apps, and it will ensure that sufficient competition between travel apps will continue to exist, now and in the future.

Dutch Railways NS is the largest public-transport company in the Netherlands, and also operates a bike-rental system. Through its subsidiary Hely, NS also operates a car-sharing program and a bike-sharing program. Pon is a Dutch mobility service provider (also called transportation network companies). Pon imports cars, manufactures bicycles, and owns shares in Greenwheels, another car-sharing program. In addition, Pon owns Next, which also operates a bike-sharing program, and a car-sharing program.

The new joint venture will house both Hely’s and Next’s activities. This new company wishes to make it as easy as possible for consumers to plan, book, and pay for a trip from their doorstep to their destination. They wish to develop an app in which consumers are able to combine different modes of transportation. In addition to the transit services of NS, Pon and its subsidiaries, transit services of other companies will also be included in the app.

Major companies in a rapidly changing market

Pon and NS are two major companies in the transit market. And in that context, trains and rental bikes are very important modes of transportation for travelers. That is why there may be a risk that Pon and NS will offer competitors their train services and rental bikes at higher prices or under more unfavorable conditions than to their own joint venture. That would negatively affect competition and innovation in the travel-app market. When they start offering their train services and rental bikes through their joint venture, NS and Pon must therefore also offer competing travel-app providers these services under at least the same conditions.

All modes of transportation in a single app

The market for mobility services is a digital, data-driven market, which is still young and dynamic. One example of that dynamism is Mobility as a Service (MaaS). With MaaS, travelers are, for example, able to plan, book, and pay for a complete trip in an app, combining different modes of transportation. Various initiatives are currently set up under the banner of MaaS, some of which are promoted by the government. MaaS is expected to help tremendously towards the realization of sustainability goals, and in mitigating the problem of traffic congestion. ACM finds it important that, in this developing market, much room is given to innovation, and that various providers get the opportunity to develop a product, too.

ACM’s concentration control: mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures

With any merger, acquisition, or joint venture, there is a question of whether sufficient competition will remain on that market, right after the concentration as well as in the future. Competition ensures that products are of high quality, and that they are offered on the market at competitive prices. That is why ACM decides in advance whether or not companies are allowed to join forces. ACM assesses whether the markets involved will continue to work well for people and businesses after that transaction.

More in this case

23-01-2020 Pon and Dutch Railways NS wish to set up a new undertaking (concentration notification) (in Dutch)