Consumers and businesses say what they want from ACM
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has asked consumers and businesses what they want ACM to do with regard to its most important topics in 2016 and 2017. Everyone was given the opportunity to respond to the ACM Agenda on the dedicated website for the online discussion (denkmee.acm.nl) and social media. The webpages were visited 3,500 times, and the average duration of these visits was almost four minutes. Over 200 responses were received through social media. Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of ACM, adds: “Apart from the results, I really think that just the fact that so many consumers and businesses took a closer look at our work is already a wonderful achievement in itself. We believe that it is crucial to have an open discussion with them about what they can expect from us.”
The six topics that ACM included in its Agenda for 2016 and 2017 are: healthy collaborations in health care; energy markets in transition; digitalization – online consumers; ports and transport; clear prices and conditions; and competitive neutrality.
Health collaborations in health care
Regarding the theme of health care, it was striking that some saw the relationship between health insurers and health care providers as a cause for concern. Health insurers wish to keep prices low. That puts pressure on the quality of health care, and some health care providers run into problems. Furthermore, participants observed huge differences between municipalities when it comes to health care procurement. Over the next two years, ACM will be conducting a market study into competition between health insurers, as well as a study into the negotiation process between health insurers and health care providers, among other projects.
Energy market in transition
Participants in the discussion about the energy transition examined the question of whether producers should also be compensated for the availability of production capacity next to the supply of electricity. All of the participants agreed that there was no need for it. However, they did indicate that they wished to make the current market model more flexible in certain areas, thereby allowing letting scarcity on the supply side be better reflected in the wholesale price. With regard to the execution of its tasks, ACM will give the Ministry of Economic advice about the energy transition.
Digitalization – online consumers
Consumers and businesses expressed their opinions about the bundling of telecom products in a single plan. Participants believed that consumers should be able to switch, particularly with regard to separate, individual services, but also when it comes to bundles. Other topics included content and telecom. Several telecom companies own exclusive rights to a specific television station or the exclusive rights to broadcast certain sports games. How does this affect consumers when choosing a broadband plan? In 2016, ACM will further investigate whether or not product bundling in the telecom market is an actual problem. And if so, what is the magnitude of this problem?
Ports and transport
Companies in the Dutch ports and those that are active in the port-related transport market should compete fairly with one another. To that end, ACM will, among other activities, educate companies in the Dutch ports and those that are active in the port-related transport market. In addition, ACM will investigate whether or not these companies have violated the Dutch Competition Act. ACM has received indications of possible abuses in the ports.
Clear prices and conditions
Consumers are able to choose from many different options, but can only make a good choice if prices and conditions are clear. This is not the case if ‘drip pricing’ occurs during the purchasing process such as having to pay service fees when purchasing concert tickets or when picking up a new car. All participants in the discussion believed that companies must include in their prices all costs that consumers cannot avoid. ACM in 2016 will carry out a study into the problem of drip pricing.
The government is also active in markets, acting as businesses, as owners/shareholders, and as clients. The rules must therefore be clear to every market participant. In the consultation about this topic, some believed that a strict application of those rules of conduct may lead to a situation where local governments become hesitant about funding public services. Others felt that local governments still had too much freedom to compete unfairly. In 2016 and 2017, ACM will pay extra attention to the protection of public interests in situations where the government is active in a market. This topic is also covered in the 2016 edition of InSight, which can be found on ACM’s website.