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Rules of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets have been harmonized

04-08-2014

On August 1, 2014, the Streamlining Act came into force. As a result of this act, the Establishment Act on the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets, and the laws that ACM enforces have been amended. With these amendments, the different powers, enforcement tools and procedures of the three predecessors of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) have been harmonized, streamlined, and simplified, thereby creating a clear and uniform set of rules for ACM.

ACM was established on April 1, 2013 after the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunication Authority (OPTA) and the Netherlands Consumer Authority joined forces. These three regulators each enforced different laws such as the Dutch Telecommunication Act, the Dutch Electricity Act 1998, the Dutch Act on Enforcement of Consumer Protection, and the Dutch Competition Act. With the Streamlining Act, ACM’s enforcement methods have now been harmonized.

From now on, the Dutch General Administrative Law Act (Algemene wet bestuursrecht) will be the basis for ACM’s enforcement methods more often. With regard to sanctions under the Dutch Competition Act, it is no longer statutorily required to set up an advisory committee on administrative appeals. From now on, if a fining decision has been issued, the fined organization must pay the fine within six weeks.

ACM has been given the ability to issue and publish warnings if it suspects the Dutch Act on Enforcement of Consumer Protection has been violated without actually having established a violation. Consumers can thus be warned sooner about harmful commercial practices. With regard to concentrations such as mergers, the global turnover threshold has been raised to EUR 150 million. This figure is adjusted for inflation. When the Dutch Competition Act came into force in 1998, that figure was EUR 113,450,000 (or 250 million Dutch Guilders).

When enforcing the Dutch Competition Act, ACM employees were already allowed to enter homes without the occupant’s permission. From now on, that power applies to all acts ACM enforces. Information that has become available through one legal procedure, may now be used for another legal procedure (insofar such exchange is necessary). The Establishment Act contains a requirement of confidentiality. This means, for example, that information coming from companies at which dawn raids were carried out cannot be made available to others just like that. In addition, that information cannot be handed over as a result of a request under the Dutch Act on Public Access to Government Information (Wet openbaarheid van bestuur). Information about ACM itself such as internal documents and, for example, expense claims continue to fall under the Dutch Act on Public Access to Government Information.