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NMa: No Prohibition on Petrol Support System—Annual Reporting on Market Trends

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has decided not to prohibit the support systems which oil companies use for their filling station operators. However, NMa will report annually during the next three years on the state of affairs on the petrol market. In doing so, NMa will give attention to price trends, new entrants to the market, and the development in the number and types of filling stations.

In December 2001 NMa announced its intention to prohibit the support systems by withdrawing the European exemption applicable to these. NMa established that the support systems restricted competition. On the basis of further research into the petrol market carried out by NMa in the past period, NMa decided that there was insufficient evidence that prohibiting the support systems would lead to lower consumer prices. The regulator is no longer convinced that such a far-reaching measure would achieve the desired effect, namely greater competition.

NMa has also established that the petrol market has a structure which does not promote competition, which affects the level of petrol prices. On the other hand, NMa has observed developments on the petrol market which in time may result in greater competition. Examples of these developments are the increase in unmanned filling stations (Tango, Tinq and Esso Express), cheaper fuel through the use of the ANWB mobility pass, and the auctioning of filling stations on motorways.

In order to measure the effect of these recent developments on competition, NMa will carry out research annually into the petrol market. The aim of this research will be to ascertain whether the developments have continued and have had an effect. The findings of the research will be made public. In addition, NMa will remain alert to reports of insufficient competition in this sector.

At the end of 2001, NMa announced its intention to declare inoperative the European exemption applicable to the vertical relationship between oil companies and filling station operators. NMa subsequently continued its research into the petrol market to analyse the effect of a possible intervention. The parties involved were also given the opportunity to give their opinion of NMa's intentions and the economic analyses and research carried out by the regulator.