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NMa Calls for Better and Larger House Auctions

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has not identified any concrete infringements of the prohibition on cartels with regard to sales under execution of houses. NMa concludes that smaller sales and execution of houses, in particular, are characterised by a closed, informal culture, as a result of which the risk of collusion by real-estate traders becomes greater.

NMa therefore advises civil law notaries to organise larger auctions, in particular regional auctions, and to publicise these as widely as possible. This improves the competition process and reduces the risk of collusion.

According to NMa, the auction process can be improved further if the organisation of the auction is firmly controlled by an auctioneer/civil law notary who insures order and calmness in the auction hall. In addition, the auction hall must provide a good overview so that the auctioneer can see the members of the public present. In addition, it is important that as much information as possible is available on the additional costs, and the state and occupation of the building. This would make it attractive to more people to bid and sell at an auction.

At a sale under execution, the houses of people who can no longer meet their obligations to their mortgage provider due to their indebtedness are auctioned. Private individuals and undertakings have the opportunity to bid for such houses through the auction. A mortgage provider only sells a building through sale under execution as a last resort. Up until the last moment, it is possible to sell a building privately rather than through a sale under execution. In addition, a mortgage provider may decide not to grant the sale of the building after the sale under execution to the highest bidder, for instance because the mortgage provider considers the price to be too low.

In 2005, partly following reports in the media, NMa investigated suspected cartel formation by real-estate traders in relation to the sale under execution of houses. At the same time, Minister Donner of the Ministry of Justice informed the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament in a letter that he intended to conduct a further investigation into these reports, as forms of organised crime and mortgage fraud could be involved.

Although its investigation has not produced concrete evidence of infringements of the prohibition on cartels, NMa continues to monitor developments in relation to sales under execution actively. NMa appeals to people to notify NMa of concrete suspicions or evidence of an infringement of the prohibition on cartels in relation to the sales under execution of houses. NMa can be notified through NMa's Information Line (tel: 0800 - 0231 885, opening hours: 0900 - 1700) or through the national hotline 'Meldpunt M' for the anonymous notification of crimes. Meldpunt M's telephone number is 0800-7000 (open seven days a week). Notification may also be sent by e-mail to info@acm.nl or by using the 'Tip us off' form (under the heading of 'Contact') on NMa's website (www.acm.nl). It is also possible to respond in writing to P.O. Box 16326, 2500 BH The Hague.