ACM: it is the result that counts
The outcome of the work that the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) carried out in 2014 amounted to EUR 1.2 billion. This has been revealed in ACM’s annual report, which has been published today. ACM has also released its annual publication InSight (in Dutch: Het Signaal) together with the annual report. In it, ACM covers different social trends that are important to its oversight work such as trends in the health care industry. Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: “We see that there is public unease over the role of health insurers, and how that plays out in practice. ACM keeps a close watch on whether or not health insurers become too powerful, and that they do not collude rather than compete with one another. Our oversight is particularly focused on that.”
In our annual publication InSight (in Dutch: Het Signaal), ACM covers trends in health care, sustainability, digitization, and energy.
ACM sees the health care industry as a market that is in continuous development. At the heart of the Dutch health care system is the central role of health insurers. ACM has observed that the public feels uneasy about the division of roles between health insurers and health care providers. ACM explains what options it has to safeguard a balanced relationship between these two. Health insurers cannot become too powerful as a result of, for example, mergers or acquisitions, cartel agreements, or abuse of dominant positions. If politicians believe this is not enough, then they should formulate clear objectives and draw up clear-cut frameworks for market oversight.
ACM sees various sustainability initiatives that are stimulated by the government where it is left to the corporate sector to make mutual arrangements. ACM indicates what room there is for cooperation in competition regulations. Collaborations cannot come at the expense of mutual competition nor of consumers. If the government does wish to allow such initiatives, then room for such initiatives must be provided for in legislation.
The effect that digital technology has on our daily lives is becoming bigger and bigger. By introducing appropriate legislation, the government must strike the right balance between giving room to new consumer services and protecting public interests such as safety and reliability.
Finally, in the energy market, ACM warns against the tendency in various European countries to opt for national solutions in order to safeguard their security of supply. Current developments in Europe actually require European cooperation when trying to solve energy questions.
ACM Annual Report
ACM takes a broader perspective when dealing with market and consumer problems. ACM subsequently selects the instrument or a combination of instruments that offers the highest probability of producing a structural solution to the problem. Sometimes the best instrument is a fine, but often it can be a commitment, a warning, a vision document or educating businesses and consumers. Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of ACM, adds: “The imposition of fines is not a goal unto itself for ACM. We want to make markets work, and to solve consumer problems in order to prevent further harm. To that end, we choose the approach that solves the problem the soonest and permanently, and that prevents new problems.”
With the Streamlining Act that came into force on August 1, 2014, the procedures and powers of ACM have been streamlined. The consolidation process of the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority (OPTA) and the Netherlands Consumer Authority has thus been completed. ACM sees more and more examples of the synergies that the consolidation has generated. For example, consumer protection regulations helped in forcing the energy sector to increase transparency.
- 12-03-2015 2014 ACM Annual Report