From 1 April 2013 a new enforcement authority is active in the Netherlands: the Authority for Consumers and Markets ("ACM"). The ACM is the result of a merger between the Netherlands Competition Authority (Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit), the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority (Onafhankelijke Post en Telecommunicatie Autoriteit) and the Netherlands Consumer Authority (Consumentenautoriteit). Other governmental enforcement authorities like the Dutch Healthcare Authority (Nederlandse Zorgautoriteit) and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (Autoriteit Financiële Markten) will continue to operate independently of the ACM.
On 26 February 2013, the Dutch Senate passed a bill that established the ACM (Instellingswet). The ACM has assumed the powers and tasks of the previously independent enforcement authorities and it is led by a board of three members presided by Chris Fonteijn, the former Chairman of the Dutch Competition Authority and the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority. The ACM will focus on three main themes: consumer protection, sector-specific regulation and competition oversight.
The ACM consists of seven directorates, the most relevant of which are the Directorate Competition (Directie Mededinging); the Directorate Energy (Directie Energie); the Directorate Telecommunications, Transport and Postal Services (Directie Telecom, Vervoer en Post); the Directorate Consumers (Directie Consumenten); and the Directorate Sanctions and Legal Affairs (Directie Sancties en Juridische Zaken). Noteworthy is that competition law enforcement on the energy markets is assumed by the Directorate Energy, while the energy market for consumers falls under the supervision of the Directorate Consumers. The Directorate Sanctions and Legal Affairs will be entrusted with the imposition of sanction decisions within the sphere of all Directorates.
The formal establishment of the ACM does not yet entail any changes as to the application of the Dutch Competition Act. Changes in and harmonization of the procedures and powers of the different divisions of the ACM will be brought about by separate legislation (Stroomlijningswet). It is envisioned that this additional legislation will enter into force on 1 January 2014 but it still has to go through the entire legislative process.
For now, the powers and procedures of the enforcement authorities will remain essentially the same. There is one exception. The ACM from now on possesses the power to issue binding instructions and impose fines up to €450.000 for infringements previously enforced by the Netherlands Consumer Authority. Previously, the Netherlands Consumer Authority could only issue fines up to €450.000 in cases concerning unfair trade practices. The maximum fine that could be imposed for all other infringements within its area of competence was €78.000. The Instellingswet sets a uniform maximum fine of €450.000 for all infringements that were previously enforced by the Netherlands Consumer Authority.
On 11 April 2013, the ACM will hold a press conference in which it will present its enforcement policies in more detail. In the meantime information about the ACM is available on its website www.acm.nl.