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Supermarkets Withdraw Surcharge on Milk, NMa Decides against Order Subject to Penalty

Albert Heijn, Laurus, Schuitema, Dirk van den Broek and Nettorama have informed the Dutch Competition Authority (NMa) that they will cease charging the surcharge of NLG 0.10 on milk that they introduced jointly last week. They did so in response to notification that they received last week from NMa, namely, that NMa would impose an order subject to the payment of a penalty for non-compliance if they retained the surcharge. Since they have now informed NMa that they have withdrawn the surcharge, NMa has decided against imposing an order subject to a penalty.

The action taken by NMa was directed against the coordination of the pricing behaviour of supermarkets, namely an increase in the price of milk by NLG 0.10 following an increase in the purchase price by the same amount. NMa is not opposed to some form of support for the farmers affected, but this may not take a form that is in conflict with the Competition Act.

The Competition Act does not prohibit passing a higher purchase price on in the price charged to customers. It is prohibited, however, for competitors to consult each other about this and to enter into agreements with each other. This would allow cost price increases to be passed on to customers without risk. Every company has to decide for itself whether and, if so, to what extent a higher purchase price is passed on to its customers.

NMa commenced an investigation into the surcharge on milk partly following a complaint made by the ConsumersÂ’ Union [Consumentenbond]. The surcharge would have cost Dutch consumers more than NLG 1 million a week.