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Car prices have become clearer following ACM campaign

Having carried out a follow-up check, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has established that the advertised prices of new cars now include the unavoidable ‘closing fees’ (or ‘on-road costs’). This has been the result of a campaign that ACM launched in mid-2016 in order to make prices in the car industry more transparent. Over the past few months, ACM instructed all 29 car importers and their dealers to include all unavoidable costs in their advertised prices. Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, comments: “This is great news for consumers. It is important that they will no longer be confronted by unexpected costs. In addition, they are also able to compare prices more easily now.” ACM believes that one of the reasons for this positive outcome is the fact that all importers, under pressure, simultaneously decided to implement these changes, thereby creating a level playing field.

What was the problem?

Practically all car manufacturers used advertised prices that did not include the mandatory closing fees. The amount that still had to be added to the price of new cars could be as high as EUR 1,500. The Dutch Consumers’ Association (in Dutch: Consumentenbond) and the Dutch automobile association ANWB had reported such incidents to ACM. ACM instructed the sector to use advertised prices that included all unavoidable costs no later than November 1, 2016. ACM announced it would start taking enforcement actions after that date. So-called ‘car configurators’ (online modules to build your own car) were given a deadline of January 1, 2017.

Results of ACM’s oversight

ACM did not need to impose fines or orders subject to periodic penalty payments. After checking the advertisements, websites and price lists, ACM found that practically all importers were no longer using misleading prices. They are often also responsible for the dealers’ advertising. With a number of importers, ACM did find several deficiencies with regard to the prices in the ‘car configurators’ and on their websites. After ACM had contacted the importers in question, they adjusted their prices. ACM did have to announce an order subject to periodic penalty payments on two importers before they decided to adjust their prices. ACM will be keeping a close watch on these developments over the next few months.

What about used cars and motorcycles?

The rule that all unavoidable costs must be included in the advertised price also applies to used cars, motorcycles, trailers (or caravans), and RVs (or motor caravans). Over the next few months, ACM will determine the scope of the problem on the second-hand market, and what the right approach would be.

Unavoidable costs listed with advertised price

One of the topics in ACM’s Agenda is ‘clear prices and conditions.’ The law stipulates that all unavoidable costs must be included in the advertised price. With regard to new cars, these include, for example, delivery fees, the cost of license plates, recycling fees, and registration with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW), which is the Dutch national motor vehicle and driving license registration authority. With regard to used cars, these include safety inspection fees and title transfer fees (or registration transfer fees). Consumers that are caught unawares by unavoidable additional costs when purchasing new or used cars are encouraged to report such incidents to ConsuWijzer.nl