Martijn van de Hel was asked by newspaper De Telegraaf to comment on the possible approval by the Minister of Economic Affairs of the merger between PostNL and Sandd that had previously been prohibited by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets. De Telegraaf wrote:
„If politics were to grant an exemption for the merger between PostNL and Sandd, that would be a unique and historical event, in keeping with the spirit of the age”. Those are the words of competition lawyer Martijn van de Hel (Maverick Advocaten, not personally involved in the proposed PostNL/Sandd merger).
The merger between PostNL and Sandd prohibited by ACM reminds Van de Hel of case no. 47 in the history of the NMa, the Dutch cartel watchdog and ACM’s predecessor. The RAI and Jaarbeurs exhibition centres wished to merge at the time. When the NMA withheld its consent, the two exhibition centres applied to Minister Jorritsma (Economic Affairs) for an exemption – the same approach now taken by the two postal services. The NMA, as well as the trade unions and stand builders, feared that the merger would give the new organisation too dominant a position on the exhibitions market. Jorritsma ultimately refused to grant the exemption in June 1999. She saw 'no compelling reasons of public interest.' According to the Minister, the two exhibition centres had no reason to fear that they would miss out on large international exhibitions.
If the postal services are now granted an exemption, all kinds of legal questions will arise, such as „Will ACM thrown in the towel? Will Brussels get involved? Will other parties apply to the courts?”, Van de Hel: „It is true that market forces are currently on the decline and that political interference is increasing. But that is putting pressure on independent regulation of competition.”
Read the article here (in Dutch only).