Prevent cartel formation as a self-employed professional

This information is provided by

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, EZK

If you work with other entrepreneurs, you are not allowed to make price agreements or divide customers. That would be cartel formation. This is prohibited under the Dutch Competition Act (Mededingingswet) because it hinders fair competition between companies. There are exceptions.

Competition act and cooperation

Collaborating with other companies can have benefits. For example, you can take on larger assignments and tenders together. You can also share operating costs, risks, and knowledge. Make sure that you comply with the Competition Act. The Competition Act prohibits cartels. You form a cartel if you consult or make agreements with another company about, for example, prices for products or services. Or about how you divide the market. Agreements within a company are allowed. Read more about the rules for competition and cartels.

The cartel ban applies to all entrepreneurs

The Competition Act applies to all entrepreneurs. So not just to legal entities, such as private limited companies (bv) or public limited companies (nv). Even if you own a sole proprietorship (freelance, zzp’er), you must comply with this law. If you work within a cooperative with other independent entrepreneurs, the cartel ban also applies.

Fine for cartel agreements

If you do make cartel agreements, you could be fined by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). The amount of this fine will be part of your turnover. ACM looks at the seriousness of the violation, the circumstances, and the duration. You could also be fined personally for participating in a cartel or for directing a violation.

Combination agreement for collaboration in tenders

With a large tender you can submit a quote together with other companies. If you win the tender, you will carry out the assignment together. This is called a combination agreement. Combination agreements also fall under the cartel ban. This means that you may only make agreements that offer benefits to the customer. And that are necessary for the collaboration.

Use the Combination Agreements Guide

Follow the step-by-step plan in the Combination Agreements Guide (in Dutch) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) to determine whether a combination agreement is permitted in tenders.

Exceptions to the cartel ban

There are 4 exceptions to the cartel ban for self-employed professionals without personnel (zzp’er). In those cases, you are allowed to make agreements with other entrepreneurs about prices and other conditions. You are responsible for assessing or having assessed whether an exception applies to you.

Guideline for appointments that are allowed ACM has drawn up a guideline for tariff agreements between self-employed professionals. The guideline applies to self-employed professionals who deliver their own work. This includes independent cleaners, translators, photographers, and parcel deliverers. Read more about the exceptions in the Guideline on tariff agreements (in Dutch) for self-employed persons on
close all

Extra checks during the corona crisis

During the corona crisis, ACM pays extra attention to companies that abuse the situation. Products that are indispensable for health care and consumer well-being must remain available at fair prices. Such as face masks and disinfection gel. Companies that are in doubt about mutual agreements can ask ACM for advice. Read more about ACM's supervision during the corona crisis (in Dutch).

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, EZK

This information is provided by

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, EZK