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Covid-19: Netherlands related ACM and European Commission measures - consumer protection, competition and state aid

Manish Bahl
27/05/2020

Locations

Netherlands

Covid-19: Netherlands related ACM and European Commission measures - consumer protection, competition and state aid

Consumer protection

Merger control

Antitrust (articles 6/24 Mw and
101/102 TFEU)

Procedural and administrative
aspects

Coronavirus related state aid decisions approved by the European Commission  

  • The ACM has published some useful guidance regarding consumer protection during the coronavirus outbreak. This relates to consumer rights (e.g. gym memberships, cancellation of events etc.) and more specifically about travel and cancelling trips

  •  Consumers are entitled to refunds where consumers have already paid for products or services that have not yet been delivered or provided. Bar certain conditions set by the ACM, companies in various sectors (e.g. travel sector) are allowed to offer consumers coronavouchers for the amount of the down payment or financial obligation due to Covid-19

  • During Covid-19, consumers are entitled to compensation for the time they are unable to use a subscription such as a gym membership. Consumers can even end their subscription if the company does not provide the agreed service for a long time. Many companies offer vouchers, catch-up options or online lessons as compensation. According to the ACM, it can be reasonable and wise to accept them

  • While a takeover or merger usually involves a time-consuming merger control procedure, there is now a possibility of a more lenient and flexible approach. The ACM is open to consultations to adjust the procedural rules in specific cases to deal with the exceptional situation caused by Covid 19. Parties can also seek a (temporary)suspension of the standstill obligation / seek an Article 40 exemption, for instance when a quick acquisition is necessary to avert the insolvency of a target

  • The ACM monitors companies to ensure they do not take advantage of the current crisis e.g. by increasing prices unlawfully, especially for products considered essential to protect the health of consumers in the current situation (such as face masks and sanitizing gel)

  • It has emphasised that companies with dominant market positions continue not to be allowed to raise prices excessively 

  • It has warned that companies cannot conclude any price-fixing agreements due to the crisis

  • It has stated that during the Covid-19 crisis supermarkets may be allowed to inform each other about stock. Logistics service providers are allowed to work together to supply Dutch citizens with food. Wholesalers of medicines are allowed to inform each other about the quantity of articles they sell. Also, certain industry/sector agreements are allowed regarding the smoothtreatment of debtors.

  • It has said that it welcomes questions about collaborations that companies wish to launch in order to combat the crisis

  • For the ACM, it is business ‘as usual’, and it can be reached by phone and emailduring regular office hours

  • Almost all employees of the ACM work from home. It has cancelled all of its meetings and physical hearings, and, together with the participants and attendees, is looking for alternatives in order to keep each other well-informed and be able to discuss matters

  • If, because of these temporary circumstances, there is any delay in reaching the ACM, or delays in procedures, the ACM asks for the understanding of the party or parties concerned. It will be sensitive to these circumstances when it comes to deadlines 

  • €23 million Dutch scheme to support the economy in the current coronavirus outbreak

  • Dutch guarantee scheme of up to €10 billion to support the economy in context of coronavirus outbreak

  • €100 million Dutch subsidised loan scheme to support SMEs affected by coronavirus outbreak

  •  €2 - €4 billion in state aid pledged by Dutch government to KLM(pending)

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