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NMa calls on regional transport undertakings to be more transparent

The association in which regional transport undertakings in the Netherlands that transport students are organized, VSS, does not give any information in advance on revenues and settlement of costs of the student public-transport smart card to transport undertakings when preparing bids for regional-transport contracts. Such information is of great value to transport undertakings in order for them to be able to make competitive bids. VSS allocates funds from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to transport undertakings transporting students. Information that VSS provides to the contracting authorities is currently not clearly incorporated into the tender documents. That is why the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) has asked VSS to publish all information regarding revenue and cost projections and realizations related to the student smart card.

In addition, the NMa found that VSS members receive information on student smart card revenues and costs, whereas non-members are not automatically given the same information. They are thus put at an informational disadvantage. This makes it harder, particularly for new transport undertakings, to enter the Dutch market. Furthermore, VSS membership criteria are not clear, leaving prospective members in the dark about exactly what criteria they must meet in order to qualify for VSS membership. VSS is to clarify this issue as well. It should be noted though that VSS, in part because of the NMa investigation mentioned below, recently started an initiative to increase transparency. The NMa sat down with VSS to flesh out said initiative.

The NMa has closed its anti-cartel investigation into the allocation of costs related to the student smart card in regional transport among regional transport undertakings. The investigation had thus far not produced any evidence indicating the transport undertakings involved had made any anti-competitive arrangements. “And for independent and meticulous regulators like ourselves, such findings are important, too,” says Henk Don, member of the Board of the NMa.