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NMa calls on public to share its experiences regarding foreclosure auctions

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) wants to compare its current knowledge of foreclosure auctions with daily practice. The NMa is therefore inviting various stakeholders, including banks, notaries, auctioneers, realtors, real-estate agents, and private individuals to comment on its consultation document on foreclosure auctions.

Pieter Kalbfleisch, chairman of the Board of the NMa, explains: 'After all, undertakings as well as private individuals that deal with or have dealt with foreclosure auctions are the ones with exactly the kind of experiences and information we would like to compare our knowledge with.'

A number of real-estate agents are believed to have concluded cartel agreements, according to the NMa. Such cartels could lead to lower prices for the homes that are put up for auction, potentially leaving the individuals that were forced to sell their homes worse off, because a lower than anticipated selling price would leave them with an unnecessarily high mortgage debt outstanding. The NMa has therefore launched an antitrust investigation, in which comments on the consultation document that the NMa will receive will be included.

The NMa is inviting banks, notaries, auctioneers, realtors, real-estate agents, private individuals and other persons that are involved in foreclosure auctions to comment on the consultation document. In addition, the NMa would like to use the publication of the consultation document to call attention to the opportunity that cartel participants have to file for leniency. The consultation document (in Dutch) has been published on the NMa's website [link toevoegen] and has been sent to a number of stakeholders that are directly involved. The NMa would like to stress that any comment is greatly appreciated, even if just a few questions have been answered.

Please send your comments per email, before January 15th, 2010 by regular mail to:

Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa)
Financial Services Unit (FZD)
Reference: case 6760 'foreclosure auctions'
P.O. box 16326
2500 BH The Hague, the Netherlands

Cartel participants, including cartel facilitators or other individuals that are involved in the cartel, have the opportunity to apply for leniency. Filing a leniency application in the current antitrust investigation (into the foreclosure-auction agents) may lead to a reduction of the fine. For more information on how to file a leniency application with the NMa, please visit the NMa's website. If you would like to apply for leniency, please contact the NMa's Leniency Office, which can be contacted by phone at +31-70-330-1710.

Undertakings or private individuals, who suspect the Competition Act is violated or has been violated, and who are not directly involved in such a violation, can inform the NMa about their suspicions by filling out a form (in Dutch) on the NMa website. Additionally, consumers and undertakings can contact the NMa Information Line by calling at +31-70-330-1306. Please have as much evidence as possible ready to support your claims and suspicions, which may include factual information, concrete examples, or sources.

Antitrust investigation procedure
The investigation's procedure is as follows: should the NMa's investigation lead to the conclusion that it can indeed be reasonably presumed that the Competition Act is or has been violated, the NMa will draw up a report against the undertakings involved and/or the natural persons involved. In that case, the undertaking or natural person has the opportunity to defend itself/himself, both in writing or orally (in a hearing). Once the parties involved have been heard, the NMa decides whether the presumed violation can be established as fact, and, if so, what sanction should be imposed on the undertakings or natural persons involved. These sanctions can be as high as ten per cent of the global turnover for undertakings, or €450,000 for natural persons.