Based on competition law, firms are not allowed to have mutual agreements in order to fight competition. This is bad for growth and bad for consumers. Besides the fact that agreements that (can) limit competition are prohibited, it is illegal for companies with a dominant market position to abuse their dominant position.
Competition law plays an important role in a growing number of branches and sectors in the Netherlands. Many companies have to deal with this complex legal area - for example - in cooperation with other companies, franchises, commercial contracts, mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures.
The Autoriteit Consument en Markt (ACM) [Consumer and Market Authority] and the European Commission fight increasingly harder and more often to enforce competition rules. What was once considered normal nowadays leads to hefty fines, compensation claims and reputational damage.
Hefty fines are not only intended for the 'big multinationals'
The competition authorities focus on large as well as small business. The European Commission has imposed a fine of € 950,000,000 on five suppliers of car manufacturers. ACM, however, has focused on silver onions (€ 9,000,000), flour producers (€ 12,000,000) and the reading folders sector (€ 6,000,000). In addition, directors can have personal fines imposed on them. One example of this is that the board of directors and managers of a natural vinegar cartel each had a fine of up to 54 thousand euros imposed on them.
Also of importance to the government - Statutory support and the Wet Markt en Overheid [Market and Government Law]
Not only businesses but also governments and other non-commercial parties may have to deal with competition law and European law, for instance in the field of statutory support and the Market and Government Law. European legislation must be taken into account when it comes to statutory support. Statutory support consists of government measures which provide a financial advantage to one or more businesses. Giving statutory support is not always illegal, but it must first be assessed under European regulations. It is important to check if this support has to be reported to the European Commission before granting the statutory support. Unlawful support must in fact be repaid by the beneficiary (with interest!).
We can provide you with practical advice to limit antitrust risks and to resolve any disputes with competition authorities. In the past we have successfully campaigned against client-imposed penalties (millions). We also provide regular compliance training to clients to mitigate the organisational risks of a breach of competition law.
Competition has a lot in common with other legal areas such as procurement law, corporate lawand real estate. Since we are a full-service firm, we are highly knowledgeable in all legal areas. If your case covers multiple legal areas, we bring knowledge from different legal areas together.
Among other things, we can include counselling and guidance with:
- checking agreements to ensure there are no conflicts with competition law;
- giving or receiving aid in line with statutory support legislation;
- assisting in proceedings resulting from the imposition of fines by the Autoriteit Consument en Markt [Authority Consumer and Market] or the European Commission;
- action by governments in the context of the Wet Markt en Overheid [Market and Government Law];
- the introduction of a compliance program to avoid fines.
Examples of recent questions sent to our lawyers in the field of competition law:
- Am I (or my company) at risk of receiving a fine from the ACM?
- What arrangements can I make with my competitors?
- Is my franchise in accordance with competition law?
- Should I report our merger/acquisition to the ACM?
- A competitor receives (unlawful) support. Can I do anything about this?
- The government competes with my company. Is that allowed?
- I have suffered damage as a result of a competition infringement. Can I seek redress for this?