The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has sent a letter explaining the basic rules regarding fair competition to over 3,500 businesses based in Amsterdam and Rotterdam that are active in the ports of those cities. ACM also launched an online ‘Cartel Test for the Port Sector’ on its website. With this online tool, businesses are able to check anonymously to what extent they run the risk of violating competition rules.
Compliance with and knowledge of competition rules
A previous study held among businesses in the ports and transport sectors revealed that 70 percent of these companies comply with the rules. At the same time, too large a group of firms is prepared to ignore those rules. The study also showed that businesses are insufficiently aware of the basic rules regarding fair competition. Approximately 20 percent of the companies do not know that price-fixing agreements are illegal. More than half of the firms do not know that it is prohibited to make arrangements with competitors about sharing customers.
Cartels hinder fair competition
Ports and Transport is one of ACM’s key priorities. With the letter sent to companies in the ports and transport sectors, ACM calls their attention to cartels. Cartels are illegal agreements between competitors that impede fair competition such as price-fixing agreements or customer-sharing arrangements. Companies that engage in such illegal behavior put other businesses that do compete fairly at a disadvantage. Cartels thus harm not just other businesses, but also harm the international competitiveness of the ports involved. At the end of the day, cartels harm consumers.
In addition to educating businesses and consumers, ACM takes enforcement actions against cartels. At this point, various investigations are underway into possible violations of the Dutch Competition Act in the ports and transport sectors.