The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (Autoriteit Consument & Markt, ACM) wants more powers to take on markets where disruption of competition takes place, comparable to the New Competition Tool of UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
Under current regulations, only company takeovers with a turnover of more than 30 million euros in the Netherlands fall under the scope of the authority of the ACM. A second condition is that the worldwide turnover of the party taking over has to exceed 150 million euros.
However, in practice it appears that also smaller takeovers can disrupt markets. Examples can be found in healthcare, where local establishments of doctor’s offices and other types of health care providers can exercise a strong influence on the local market without involving substantial turnover sums.
Some Private Equity investors are stringing beads by acquiring a long string of locally active health care providers, staying under the radar of the ACM but in the end taking over substantial parts of an entire market. Health markets tend to be local, as healthcare recipients are not willing to travel long distances to receive care, so a local takeover can still establish substantial market power.
Also other factors, such as the fact that healthcare recipients may only be reimbursed for healthcare costs when using providers who have concluded health care contracts with their specific health insurer, can play a role.
The proposal of the ACM would give the ACM power to intervene also in cases when Dutch Competition Law is not violated. Meanwhile, the Dutch Association of Private Equity Firms laments that it would be unclear by how much this would increase costs and that ambiguity would lead to uncertainty in the market.