More opportunities and options for consumers in 2017
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in 2017 booked great results for consumers, governments, and businesses alike. In all, ACM saved Dutch society around EUR 1 billion in 2017. It did so by using a broad range of instruments. Both fines as well as commitments made it possible to enforce compliance with regulations. ACM promoted competition through interventions in regulated sectors such as the telecom, postal services and the energy sectors. Our communication efforts were important in making consumers more aware of their rights. ACM also booked results in its collaborations with national and international partners.
Fines and commitments
One noteworthy case in 2017 was the multi-million euro fine on Dutch railway company NS for abusing its dominant position in the 2014 tender process for the public-transport contract in the southern Dutch province of Limburg. ACM has never before imposed a fine of such magnitude on an undertaking. NS has filed an appeal. Another high-profile case was the fine imposed on Volkswagen for its misleading practices in the diesel emissions scandal. However, fines are not needed in all situations for achieving compliance with the rules. For example, Amsterdam airport Schiphol and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines made binding commitments to ACM that effectively curtailed the risks of an unlevel playing field for other airlines.
Regulation of telecom and postal services sectors
Analyses of the telecom and postal services markets have resulted in decisions that improved competition in these sectors. For instance, ACM issued decisions on the maximum tariffs that telephone providers are allowed to charge each other for connecting each other’s users. In some cases, ACM relaxed requirements imposed previously, like those for fixed telephony. In the postal services market, ACM ruled that Dutch postal operator PostNL must provide access to its sorting and delivery network to other postal operators. As a result, regional postal operators are also able to offer nationwide delivery services for 24-hour bulk mail, and choices remain for those who want to use business mail.
In collaboration with the energy sector, ACM ensured that consumers can choose a different provider for charging stations for electric vehicles than the one they use for their power supply at home. Additionally, companies can, for example, choose to supply their self-generated power to a different supplier than the suppliers they purchase power from. Also, ACM determined how much the Dutch transmission system operator for natural gas is allowed to earn until 2021. As a result, the operator's turnover will decrease sharply in favor of consumers.
ACM launched a campaign warning consumers about impulse purchases through social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Consumers are becoming better and better at finding the information, tools, sample letters and guides on consumer information portal Consuwijzer.nl. A customer satisfaction survey has revealed that contacting ConsuWijzer also helps consumers become better at taking action themselves against unfair business practices.
Collaborating with regulators at home and abroad helped increase ACM's effectiveness. In the Netherlands, ACM worked together with financial regulators on the availability of data for developers of financial apps for payment systems, for example. Internationally, we acted decisively against Volkswagen for misleading consumers in the diesel emissions scandal and against cartel activities in the harbor towage sector.
Over EUR 1 billion was saved
Every year, ACM calculates how much it has saved consumers because of its market interventions. This is a well-substantiated estimate. For 2017, ACM has saved consumers EUR 1 billion. This amount consists of EUR 290 million for activities completed in 2017, and EUR 740 million for activities from previous years the impact of which continued in 2017.
Please note that the full English version of the annual report will be released later this year. For now, the English version of the highlights of the 2017 Annual Report is available, and can be found on the website below.