Dutch regulators have cleared PostNL of abusing its dominant position in the postal market within the Netherlands.
The Dutch Competition Authority (NMa) has turned down an appeal from PostNL’s private sector rival Sandd against a decision in 2009 that there was no violation of competition rules.
The NMa said today there was no evidence that PostNL’s mail subsidiary Netwerk VSP was illegally keeping out competition by offering below cost delivery services made possible by “free” use of the PostNL delivery network.
The regulator added that the situation has changed since 2009 since Netwerk VSP is no longer in business delivering addressed mail.
The NMa said that regarding the 2009 complaint, it had no evidence that PostNL had been providing delivery services through its Netwerk VSP subsidiary below cost, undercutting private sector rivals.
The complaint from Sandd leading up to the ruling in 2009 had suggested Netwerk VSP had been using the PostNL delivery network without paying a fair price for access, but the NMa said it had no evidence that this was the case.
The antitrust regulator said the Dutch postal market is not fair, since the state-owned PostNL has to run a large delivery network because the government requires a six-day-per-week delivery service, which means postal distribution is generally cheap. But, the NMa said that while this meant competition was not fair, there was nothing it could do to prevent it.
The circumstances surrounding the complaint have also changed, the regulator said, because Netwerk VSP is no longer in business. PostNL decided to shut down the low-cost advertising mail delivery company at the end of 2011 as part of its restructuring process aimed at cutting operating costs.
The NMa said ministers had already noted the problems in the amount of competition existing in the Dutch postal market, which have not improved since the 2009 decision, and were looking to additional legisation to change the situation.
Chris Fonteijn, chairman of the NMa, said: “If the regulator – now the OPTA, soon to be the Market Consumer Authority (ACM) – is given additional powers in the future to regulate the postal market, it will be possible to deliver a more customised process to more effectively address market problems.”
PostNL noted that the Dutch antitrust authority had again decided after further study that it did not abuse its position in the postal market.
“According to Sandd PostNL has distorted competition by giving Netwerk VSP access to the network of PostNL at prices below cost. However, the NMa did not find any indication for such behaviour. In 2009, the NMa already rejected a complaint from Sandd, against which Sandd objected,” explained PostNL.