NMa confirms investigation in travel industry
The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has confirmed that it carried out unannounced dawn raids this week at undertakings that are active in the travel industry. The travel industry's economic importance is tremendous, considering its annual turnover of more than EUR 10 billion, mostly through travel sales to both consumers and businesses.
The NMa carries out dawn raids when it suspects the Dutch Competition Act is violated, for example, by market-sharing or price-fixing agreements. The objective of these dawn raids is to gather information in order to determine whether or not the Competition Act has indeed been violated. Approximately 60 NMa officials were involved in these dawn raids.
The fact that the NMa has carried out these dawn raids does not automatically mean that LHV nor the general practitioners are guilty of anti-competitive behavior, and therefore does not prejudge the possible outcome of the investigation. The investigation not only looks into the undertakings in question, but also into possible involvement of natural persons.
The investigation's procedure is as follows: should the NMa's investigation lead to the conclusion that a violation of the Competition Act can be reasonably presumed, the NMa will draw up a report against the undertakings 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 (at a hearing). Once the parties involved have been heard, the NMa will decide 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 EUR 450,000 for natural persons.
The NMa cannot comment on the estimated length of the current investigation. In general, the length of an investigation depends on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, as well as the level of cooperation of the undertakings and individuals involved.
Applying for leniency
Under the NMa's leniency program, cartel participants may qualify for fine reduction. In addition, cartel facilitators or natural persons that have been involved in a cartel can also apply for leniency. More information on the NMa's leniency program can be found online at: Leniency.
Indications and tip-offs
Indications and tip-offs that the NMa receives from individuals and undertakings concerning possible violations of the Dutch Competition Act, and preferably accompanied by supporting evidence, are highly appreciated. These will enable the NMa to increase its knowledge of various industries and to track down possible violations. The NMa receives approximately 4,000 indications about possible antitrust violations each year.