Recently, the Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs published his ‘Instruction to the Dutch Consumer Authority for Information Provision to Consumers’. This instruction provides the Consumer Authority with the power to warn consumers about (allegedly) unlawful trade practices by individual undertakings.
In brief, the Instruction comes down to the Consumer Authority being allowed to proceed to the provision of information about (allegedly) damage-causing trade practices, including the names of individual companies, even before any violation is established, and this at the (very short) notice of two working days. According to the explanation to the Instruction, this forms part of the Consumer Authority’s task to inform consumers and to enable them to take action on the basis of the information provided.
The Consumer Authority may proceed to publication if it thinks there is:
a) an acute and real risk of harm to consumers; and/or
b) demonstrable economic damage; and
c) a reasonable suspicion of violation.
The Consumer Authority must inform the undertaking concerned beforehand about the intended publication and provide it with the opportunity to submit its views. However, these must be submitted within a term of two working days.
In view of the very brief term (two working days) and the possible consequences of publication, it is required to be attentive to any notification form the Consumer Authority. Only if the announcement is observed in time, action can be taken to prevent publication.