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The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets: consumers are central

‘Consumers are central in our oversight,’ says Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM), at the press conference marking the launch of the new regulator. Mr. Fonteijn continues: ‘This principle applies to all of our oversight activities. However, it does not mean that our work is limited to merely the last step in the chain, the consumer. It is about whether consumers benefit from our actions, and this principle applies to earlier steps, higher up the chain, too, for example, to the wholesale energy market or to regulation of access in the telecommunication market. We do so in order to promote opportunities and options for businesses and consumers.’ This forms the basis of the planned strategy of the new market authority, which was presented earlier today.

In addition, ACM also unveiled its outlook on a number of key markets, focusing on the problems that these markets are facing. Based on this market outlook, ACM identified its key priorities for 2013. Mr. Fonteijn explains: ‘We aim to look for solutions to market and consumer problems from a broader perspective. ACM is and will always be an enforcer. We take firm actions against violations, and impose hefty fines where needed. At the same time however, ACM carefully looks into the root cause of the problems it identifies. Based on sound problem analyses, we will search for tailor-made solutions, which may involve commitments from firms, conducting market scans or launching awareness campaigns through ConsuWijzer.’

Key Priorities for 2013

Given its widely diverse fields, combined with its limited resources, ACM will have to make choices about what market and consumer problems it will tackle. The criteria it uses when making these choices are the harm that the problem inflicts on consumers, the public interest that is at stake, and whether ACM is able to take action effectively.

In 2013, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets will focus on, among other topics, problems in essential basic services for consumers such as energy and telecommunication, housing and health care. ACM will do so by:

  • Making sure that major developments in the mobile telecommunication market such as the roll-out of 4G networks will benefit consumers, and by ensuring online safety;
  • Presenting its vision for the health care sector, giving particular attention to the roles of health insurers and patients; by stimulating competition when health care providers purchase drugs and medical equipment;
  • Promoting competition in the housing market, for example, by increasing transparency or examining whether new entrants have enough possibilities to enter the mortgage market;
  • Increasing transparency in order to enable consumers to make a choice (in telecommunication, energy, travel industry, mobile games), and countering aggressive selling methods.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers &d Markets

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) was created on April 1, 2013, as a result of the consolidation of the Netherlands Consumer Authority, the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) and the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunication Authority (OPTA).  By bringing together all of its predecessors’ tasks, ACM combines consumer protection in the non-financial markets, general competition oversight, and sector-specific regulation in the energy, telecommunication, postal services and transport sectors. The three former authorities had already worked together in the joint operation of consumer information desk ConsuWijzer, where consumers can find information on their rights and obligations.

Today, ACM releases the draft version of its Strategy Document, thereby launching the public consultation thereof. All comments on this document will be collected over the next few weeks, after which ACM will release the final version of its strategy document. In addition, ACM also releases its Market Outlook and its Key Priorities for 2013.