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NMa: Art dealers’ commitment increases competition at art auctions

From now on, art dealers will inform the auctioneer when an individual art dealer is unable to buy a piece of art on his own and is therefore bidding together with other dealers. Five art dealers have officially informed the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) of their commitment to this code of conduct. The NMa had launched an investigation into possible cartel activities in art auctions, particularly painting auctions.

Henk Don, member of the Board of the NMa, reacts: ‘This commitment makes collaborations between art dealers transparent, and prevents strategic collaborations, for example, to obtain paintings at the lowest possible price. Sellers of paintings thus benefit from this commitment since it will result in better prices. It additionally makes clear what is and what is not allowed, which offers guidance to all dealers on how to act at auctions.’ The NMa checks whether dealers comply with this commitment.

The NMa investigation revealed that, in some instances, art dealers had collectively placed bids on paintings. This potentially reduces the number of bidders at an auction. If the painting was sold, it would sometimes be resold among the joint bidders. The NMa has informed the art dealers that collusive bidding, in order to obtain the lowest possible price, is considered anticompetitive.

The art dealers made this commitment after the NMa had launched an investigation, and found potential antitrust concerns. Commitments take away potential antitrust concerns quickly and efficiently. Violations of the Dutch Competition Act are not officially established in commitment decisions, but the NMa does identify anticompetitive risks in them. The draft decision to declare the commitments binding (in Dutch) has been made available for perusal, and can also be found on the NMa’s website (www.acm.nl).

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