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NMa publishes quarterly report on enforcement activities

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has in the first quarter of 2007 imposed a fine of EUR 180,000 on NRE Netwerk BV. It has also issued statements of objections against several tree nurseries, setting out a suspected infringement of the Competition Act. These are provisional findings. In the next phase of the procedure, the companies concerned will be heard. The NMa carried out five company visits, both announced and unannounced (in the media and healthcare sectors amongst others), during which a total number of 15 companies were visited. The competition authority received seven leniency applications in the first quarter of the year. Together with OPTA and the Consumer Authority, the NMa launched a campaign to increase consumer familiarity with the information helpdesk ConsuWijzer. As from now, the NMa will issue quarterly reports outlining its key enforcement activities; this quarterly report is the first one to be published.

The NMa has a range of tools at its disposal for making markets work. In each specific case, it will adopt the instrument that is most appropriate and effective. With regard to the Dutch Association of Estate Agents [Nederlandse Vereniging van Makelaars (NVM)], this tailor-made approach resulted in an assurance given to the NMa on the issue of a compliance programme to be set up by the NVM to help reinforce compliance with the Competition Act. On the basis of a critical review of its 'tool kit', the NMa concluded that it is now far from easy to assess whether the tariffs of royalty collection organisations, such as copyright organisations, are excessive. In addition, the NMa completed its investigation into Currence, the owner of 'collective' payment products such as PIN and Chipknip. The investigation did not yield sufficient indications for establishing an infringement of the Competition Act. However, Currence did decide on having a number of supervisory directors, employed by one of the shareholding banks, withdrawn. In doing so, Currence acquired a favourable starting position for stimulating competition in the future European payment market (SEPA, Single European Payment Area).

The Office of Energy Regulation (DTe), the NMa division dealing with the energy sector, tightened the compensation scheme for damaged parties in the event of power failure and fixed gas and electricity transmission tariffs. DTe required the Zeeland gas network operator Zebra Gasnetwerk B.V. to allow a larger number of providers to access its network (three parties had had access up until then). Buying parties were to be given the opportunity to choose another gas provider. The regulator also decided that the regional network operator Continuon was not to be held responsible for earthing street lampposts. Instead, this was found to belong to the Amsterdam municipality. A dispute on the issue arose following the electrocution of a dog. The energy market regulator, furthermore, advised the Minister of Economic Affairs on the financial underpinning of the extension of the Dutch gas transmission network and on transparency as regards the source of (green) electricity, as realised by means of the electricity label.

The Office of Transport Regulation of the NMa consulted airline companies on the proposed approval of the cost allocation system for NV Luchthaven Schiphol. On the basis of this system, Schiphol can determine the maximum level of costs to be relegated to airline companies through tariffs levied for aviation activities. The Office of Transport Regulation also supervises the railway sector and issued the second edition of the Railway Monitor in late March, establishing an increase in compliance with the Railway Act and an enhanced level of competition. The Monitor also showed that procedures surrounding the Network Statement, charging fees and access agreements left room for improvement. Following an intervention by the Office off Transport Regulation, ProRail finally issued the co-called 'preconstructed international rail paths', which are vital to improving international freight transport. It was apparent from an investigation by the Office of Transport Regulation that the reduction on charging fees for access to the freight railway network, as implemented by ProRail, was not part of the calculation method for charging fees. Therefore, no objection was raised against the agreement. This quarter the Office of Transport Regulation issued a so-called 'enforcement calendar'. It stipulates, to the extent possible, when enforcement activities are to take place. In this way, the Office of Transport Regulation hopes to minimise the burden on companies. Regulated parties will be notified as soon as possible whether their product meets statutory demands.

In the first two months of the year, the NMa received 16 merger notifications, adopted 21 clearance decisions and approved the merger between the Laurentius Ziekenhuis in Roermond and the St. Jans Gasthuis in Weert. Recently, it ruled that the concentration of the floral auctions Coöperatie Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer U.A. and the Coöperatieve Bloemenveiling FloraHolland requires an in-depth second-phase inquiry.