Town of Hellevoetsluis must include all costs in berth tariffs
The Dutch municipality of Hellevoetsluis (in the southwestern part of the Netherlands) is competing unfairly with other commercial marinas and berths because it fails to include all related costs in its berth tariffs. As such, Hellevoetsluis violates the Dutch law on competitive neutrality, the Dutch Act on Government and Free Markets. This is the conclusion of an investigation carried out by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).
The municipality of Hellevoetsluis is located on the northern shores of the Haringvliet in the southwestern province of South-Holland, and it commercially exploits berths in the municipal marinas. ACM is of the opinion that not all costs have been fully included yet in the calculation of the berth tariffs. For example, the municipality does not take into account the value (such as the land value) of those berths. In addition, the costs for maintaining the quays and locks, dredging the marina, and operating the bridges and locks ought to be partially included in the berth tariffs. ACM thus believes that the actual costs are higher than the revenues. In this way, the municipality subsidizes its own marina, thereby disrupting competition with the commercial marinas.
Various marinas are located in the Hellevoetsluis area. It is crucial that the municipal marina competes fairly with its commercial competitors. Currently, it does not. That is why we have decided to take action. The municipality of Hellevoetsluis needs to adjust its tariffs.
The Dutch Act on Government and Free Markets
The government is allowed to offer products and services on the market. However, it needs to comply with the rules when offering them. The Dutch law of competitive neutrality, the Dutch Act on Government and Free Markets, mandates, among other requirements, all municipalities to include all costs in their tariffs, when offering products and services on the market. In practice, this mostly concerns commercial activities of municipalities in the recreation sector, ranging from the commercial exploitation of marinas berths to RV parks (or motorhome campsites). ACM has provided guidance and has taken decisions, explaining how the integral costs can be calculated. In that way, other municipalities, too, are able to see how ACM rules on the calculation of ‘integral costs’ and what activities are considered ‘commercial activities.’
June 11, 2019: The District Court of Rotterdam has ruled on appeal in this case. For the complete text of that ruling (in Dutch), please refer to this page.