The Courts of Rotterdam have annulled a combined 5 million Euro fine imposed by the Dutch Competition Authority ("NMa") relating to a cartel between two home care services providers, Stichting Carinova Thuiszorg and Stichting Carint-Reggeland Groep in a decision of 14 March 2013.
In 2008 the NMa decided that the home care services providers violated the Dutch Competition Act by agreeing upon a non-compete clause.
The clause stipulated that a party should not encroach, at least not without the consent of the other party, on the market area in which the other party was active with regard to home care services.
The Dutch Court states that the alternative explanation, i.e. that the agreements were made in anticipation of an expected change in law, is not implausible.
That fact that one of the parties thought that it was already bound by such a law points away from the conclusion that there was consensus or coordination between the providers.
The Court therefore annulled the fines of, respectively, EUR 3.7m and 1.1m. It is not known yet whether the Dutch Competition Authority will appeal against this judgment.