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Make full use of the strengths of the market and the government

29-03-2017

Make full use of the strengths of the market and the government. That is the central message that the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) puts forward in this year’s publication of ‘InSight’ (in Dutch: Het Signaal). What are the strengths of the market, and how can markets safeguard public interests? In what areas are markets not up to the task? And is the government’s role clear? Widely different opinions about the roles that government and the market should play are explored in the public debate on this topic. In ACM’s view, however, combinations of government and market often offer the best outcomes for society. As long as the government sets the boundaries, making effective use of the market can benefit consumers and public interests.

‘InSight’

‘InSight’ is an annual publication of ACM’s in which it calls attention to social trends and policy problems that are important for its oversight efforts. ACM sent this publication to the Minister of Economic Affairs on March 29, 2017.

Annual report: Dutch consumers save EUR 790 million thanks to ACM’s work

In addition to InSight, ACM has also published its 2016 Annual Report. This annual report reveals that ACM’s work in 2016 has saved Dutch consumers approximately EUR 790 million. ACM deals with those market problems that are most harmful to consumers. These include requiring online stores to provide consumers with accurate information about their rights, lower prices for sustainable energy, and healthy cooperation between hospitals. Here is a selection of ACM’s highlights from 2016.

Awareness campaigns about cartels and debt collection

In 2016, ACM went on the offensive against cartel agreements, also in the ports and transport sector. Cartels are illegal agreements between businesses to eliminate the competition. With our campaign ‘Cartels never go unnoticed,’ we have raised people’s awareness of cartel agreements. In 2016, ACM together with the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) also launched an awareness campaign to empower consumers against unfair practices in the debt collection industry. In the campaign ‘Debt collection? Only pay if the facts are correct,’ we called on consumers to take action against unjust, incorrect or aggressive debt collection. 

Fines on online stores

In 2016, ACM took action against various online stores in order to ensure that they provide consumers with accurate information about their rights, and that consumers are refunded their money after cancellation of their purchases. We imposed fines totaling EUR 505,000 on five online fashion stores. In addition, we imposed fines totaling EUR 500,000 on online bicycle and sportswear stores and their executives.

Record number of individuals have switched energy providers

In 2016, a record share of 16.4% of all Dutch consumers switched energy providers. Never before have so many consumers switched providers in a single year. We have helped introduce the ‘personalized offer.’ With such personalized offers, we have made it easier for consumers to compare prices.

ACM sets the tariffs wherever there is insufficient competition

In 2016, ACM set tariffs in the following sectors: telecommunications, postal services, aviation, rail, maritime pilotage, and energy. Customers in these sectors are not always able to choose from different providers, which means they sometimes pay too much. ACM oversees all of these markets, making sure that providers operate efficiently, that their operations meet specific quality requirements, and that they do not charge too high tariffs for their services.