COVID-19: Competition law & State support in the Netherlands
The Dutch government, including the Dutch competition authority (ACM), is committed to support the Dutch economy, its businesses and citizens:
- Cooperation & cartels: The ACM has emphasized that competition law provides for possibilities to cooperate in order to prevent harm to consumers and businesses. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the ACM is available to provide guidance on the scope for cooperation between businesses to combat the crisis. Examples include:
o Information exchange between supermarkets on stock levels;
o Cooperation between logistics service providers to supply Dutch citizens with food;
o Industry arrangements on how to accommodate debtors;
o Information exchange between pharmaceutical wholesalers in relation to sales volumes.
- Mergers and acquisitions in crisis: The ACM is known for its pragmatic approach in relation to mergers and acquisitions involving businesses on the verge of bankruptcy. For those type of transactions, the ACM can allow immediate closing of the transaction by lifting the standstill obligation that would otherwise apply.
- State support: The Dutch government has announced a large package of measures to help businesses and additional measures are being considered. Current measures include:
o The Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure for Sustained Employment (Noodfonds Overbrugging Werkgelegenheid) which will provide financial help for employers to help pay their employees’ wages;
o Extension of the SME credit guarantee (BMKB) scheme to help SMEs affected by the COVID-19 outbreak to secure bank guarantees and bridge financing (until April 2021). The guarantee has been increased to 75% of the credit given by the financing party;
o Extension of the Business loan guarantee scheme (Garantie Ondernemingsfinanciering) to cover larger loans – the €50 million maximum has been increased to €150 million;
o Possibilities to suspend payments of income tax, corporate tax, payroll tax and VAT.
Also, a compensation of €4,000 is proposed for businesses in sectors that have been hit particularly hard (including hospitality, travel and event organization sectors). The proposed measure, however, still requires approval by the European Commission.
Questions on information sharing with competitors, obtaining a quick merger clearance or on the possibilities of state support? Get in contact with Berend Reuder, Ruben Elkerbout, Linde Bremmer or Mattijs Baneke of Stek’s Competition and Regulated Market team.