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NMa: More Attention to the Effects of Its Own Actions

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) will focus more explicitly on analysing and realising effects in the Dutch economy of the action it takes. Partly for this reason, each year NMa selects areas which require extra attention according to 'society'. "It appears from consultation with society that there is support for NMa's choice to pay attention to the construction sector, liberal professions, financial markets and healthcare, as it did in 2004. This choice is not surprising, since these are economically important sectors, which also deserve NMa's attention this year. By focusing for a longer period on a sector and deploying tailormade instruments, one is also in a better position to realise effects," according to the Director-General, Mr P. Kalbfleisch, during a presentation of NMa's Agenda 2005

NMa uses various instruments to make markets work. The objective is not maximum enforcement by imposing the highest possible fines, but ensuring maximum compliance with competition rules by preventing and combating infringements. Where the Competition Act is infringed, NMa imposes a sanction, but NMa also has other instruments at its disposal to promote compliance with the law. The principle applied in this regard is that companies are themselves responsible for complying with the Competition Act. "Advocates and branch associations play an important role in this by giving advice. Where legislation and case law are unclear, NMa will endeavour to provide clarity through policy rules and other instruments," according to Kalbfleisch. "This includes, for instance, informal opinions, guidelines, brochures and support in drawing up compliance rules for companies."

In the responses with regard to the healthcare sector, there appeared to be insufficient clarity on the division of tasks and roles between NMa, and the Healthcare Charges Board [College Tarieven Gezondheidszorg] and the Office for Health Regulation [Zorgautoriteit], which is currently being established. For this reason, these parties signed a cooperation protocol in February. This contains agreements with regard to their cooperation and division of work.

In 2005, the Office of Energy Regulation (DTe) will focus on the interests of consumers. Mr G. Zijl, Director of DTe: "The transparency of the energy market must be improved. Consumers have insufficient insight into the possibilities open to them: they do not know what to base their choice on. This is one of the reasons why few people switched to a different energy supplier." In addition, consumers cannot switch to a different energy supplier without some concern, because there are problems with the administrative processes which regulate the switch. "The possibility of switching without difficulty is of considerable importance for the proper functioning of the energy market and consumer confidence in this market," Zijl emphasises. "For this reason, agreements have been made with the sector to solve the present problems. DTe will monitor progress periodically. On 1 July 2005, the problems with the administrative processes must be a thing of the past," according to Zijl.

On 1 January 2005, the Office of Transport Regulation started regulating the railway sector in accordance with the Railways Act [Spoorwegwet], which came into effect as of that date. The Office of Transport Regulation ensures, for instance, non-discriminatory access to the railway system.

Annual overview 2004

NMa imposed sanctions amounting to a total of EUR 78 million in 12 cases, including the sanction imposed on Interpay for charging excessive tariffs for the supply of network services for PIN transactions. In addition, NMa imposed a sanction on bicycle manufacturers for entering into price agreements. In 2004, three investigations resulted in a report. The number of reports was lower than in previous years, but the number of companies involved was considerably larger, including the construction sector, one of NMa's priorities, which was investigated in its entirety. In 2004, 83 decisions were taken on mergers, takeovers and joint ventures.

In 2004, DTe took 212 implementation decisions. Due to the liberalisation of the energy market, DTe no longer set tariffs for the supply of electricity and gas to small consumers.

Annual Bulletin 2004 & Agenda 2005