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NMa: Dutch travel trade association must amend its General Agency Conditions

The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has instructed the Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR) to amend its General Agency Condititions. ANVR’s decision regarding this amendment was brought to the general meeting for a vote earlier today, and was subsequently approved. The conditions were said to potentially restrict competition on price with regard to travel sales. Amending them will eliminate this risk. The NMa has therefore decided to close the investigation into possible antitrust violations in the travel industry now that the amendment has been passed.

Prompted by indications that tour operators and travel agents had agreed not to offer consumers any discounts with regard to travel sales, and to collectively boycot innovative online services that offer discounts, the NMa launched an investigation into the travel industry. As part thereof, the NMa carried out dawn raids in January and February of 2011 at various travel-related undertakings.

In its investigation, the NMa found that some travel agents interpreted ANVR’s General Agency Conditions as a prohibition to offer any discounts with regard to travel sales. Such an interpretation would lead to a restriction of competition. With the amendment, it is emphasized that the General Agency Conditions do not constitute a prohibition for travel agents to offer any discounts themselves with regard to travel sales. The NMa will check whether this amendment will be upheld in the future.

ANVR is the Dutch trade association for the travel industry, representating approximately 1,550 travel agents and 200 tour operators. With a combined turnover of more than EUR 10 billion, the travel industry is a key industry of the Dutch economy. The NMa will thus continue to keep a close watch on this industry for any potential anticompetitive activities.

On January 1, 2013, the NMa will merge with the Netherlands Consumer Authority and the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority of the Netherlands (OPTA), creating a new authority: The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). This new authority aims to ensure that markets work in order to protect consumer interests. To this end, the ACM will focus on three main themes: consumer protection, industry-specific regulation, and competition oversight.