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Public-transportation companies are cleared to create mobility platform under strict conditions

Dutch Railways NS and the municipal public-transportation companies in the three largest Dutch cities, Amsterdam (GVB), Rotterdam (RET) and The Hague (HTM), are allowed to create a digital mobility platform to which they admit other market participants that offer mobility services to travelers. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has attached strict conditions to its clearance of this collaboration. These conditions serve to ensure that access to the platform is guaranteed for mobility-service providers, that innovation is stimulated, and that a level playing field will remain in place.

Mobility services that help travelers plan, book, and pay for a trip from doorstep to destination are called ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS). On their proprietary digital platforms, MaaS-providers combine different transportation services (such as train, bus, subway, car-sharing programs, and bike-sharing programs) as well as related services such as travel information and payment services. The four transit companies in question wish to create a joint platform that connects transit operators with MaaS-providers in a technical manner. NS, GVB, HTM and RET are active as transit operators (they offer public-transportation services and, for example, bike-sharing programs). In addition, they are also MaaS-providers or wish to become one.

Safeguarding competition on the MaaS-markets

According to ACM, the strict conditions that have been attached to the joint platform are sufficient to take away possible anticompetitive concerns. For example, NS, GVB, HTM and RET have committed to offering other mobility providers and MaaS-providers access to the platform under equal conditions. In that context, they will not demand exclusivity. In addition, the four companies in question will make their transit services (bus, tram, subway and train services) available to MaaS-providers, regardless of whether these MaaS-providers are connected to the platform. They will apply the same conditions to all parties. Also, they will ensure that mobility providers and MaaS-providers (including the four companies themselves) will not have access to commercially sensitive information.

An evolving market

The market for mobility services is a digital, data-driven market, which is nascent and dynamic. MaaS is expected to contribute significantly to the realization of sustainability goals, and to mitigating the problem of traffic congestion. ACM finds it important that there is much room for innovation in this developing market, and that various providers get the opportunity to develop new distinctive products. For the MaaS-market to grow and evolve, it is important that all Maas-providers are able to integrate transportation services in their offerings on their own digital platforms. ACM will conduct a market study to take stock of the current situation regarding such access and integration for MaaS-providers (existing and potential ones): to what public-transportation services of other market participants do they currently have access, and under what conditions?

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, both 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 assesses in advance whether or not companies are allowed to join forces. ACM examines whether the markets involved will continue to work well for people and businesses after the transaction in question.