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New guidelines for cooperation between businesses

What is and what is not allowed when businesses collaborate

Make sure that you know what is and what is not allowed if you collaborate with competitors or make arrangements with suppliers or buyers. Businesses are allowed to work together, but there are limits. Businesses are not allowed to make arrangements that restrict competition. This is explained in the revised guidelines on the rules concerning collaborations between businesses. On the website about cartels (in Dutch), businesses are able to find out easily what types of arrangements are considered anticompetitive. In the guidelines, which are more detailed, examples and possible exceptions are discussed.

Collaborations between competitors

Competitors are allowed to work together in various ways, for example by doing research together or by developing new products together. And trade associations can help businesses compete more effectively, for example by drawing up sample cost projections. However, some arrangements restrict competition. Businesses that have made such arrangements form a cartel together. Cartel agreements are strictly prohibited. Competitors are not allowed to:

  • Make any arrangements regarding prices (including purchase prices), discounts or special offers;
  • Allocate customers or territories;
  • Make arrangements about who will win a tender process;
  • Make arrangements about not poaching each other’s employees or about restricting competition on conditions of employment. Obviously, employers and labor unions are allowed to make arrangements about conditions of employment in collective labor agreements.

In the coming months, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will be paying extra attention to illegal price-fixing agreements between competitors with regard to the purchase of products (buying cartels) and to illegal agreements about employment conditions.

Agreements between suppliers and buyers

Suppliers and buyers, like manufacturers and retailers, are allowed to make arrangements about the distribution of goods and services. This ensures a more efficient distribution. But suppliers cannot make arrangements about the minimum price for which buyers have to resell the product to customers. In addition, suppliers cannot limit a buyer’s freedom to resell products over the Internet. In the coming months, ACM will keep a very close watch on illegal agreements (including price-fixing  agreements) between suppliers and buyers, and on restrictions on resale over the Internet.

ACM keeps a close watch on collaborations, and ensures fair competition

ACM enforces the rules governing fair competition, and acts against illegal collaborations. For example, we are currently investigating:

  • Whether roofing contractors agreed on who would win tenders and fixed the prices of their offers;
  • Whether manufacturers and retailers of consumer goods made illegal price-fixing agreements. ACM suspects that manufacturers force buyers, especially online stores, not to resell certain products for less than a minimum price.

In addition, we warned GPs that they are not allowed to allocate patients.

See also