At the request of the Dutch Minister of Finance, the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (Autoriteit Consument & Markt; ACM) has initiated a market study into the activities of major tech firms (referred to as Big Techs by the ACM) on the Dutch payments market.

As examples of Big Techs, the ACM explicitly mentions Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook (also commonly referred to as ‘GAFA’). In its market study, the ACM intends to additionally examine whether Chinese Big Techs (such as Tencent and Alibaba) may enter the Dutch payments market. If the answer to that question would be affirmative, the main research questions will be what those plans are, and what impact those plans would have on consumers and businesses. What new payment options will become available? Will sufficient market opportunities for small businesses remain?

Rationale of the study

The ACM observes that traditionally, there are relatively few service providers on the payments market (primarily the major banks and credit card companies). The European Directive on access to payment data (PSD2), which entered into force in February 2019, should increase competition and innovation in the payments markets. The ACM believes that the entry of major tech firms could provide an additional boost to competition and innovation. On the other hand, the ACM fears that the entry of Big Techs could also entail anticompetitive risks. Big Techs could use the their market power on one market as a leverage to also dominate another market. Their entry into a payments market or even only an announcement of entry plans could deter other potential entrants.

Further proceedings

The Dutch House of Commons (Tweede Kamer) has requested the Minister of Finance to commission a study with regard to the impact of the entry of Big Techs into the Dutch payments market. The Minister has in turn entrusted the ACM with the responsibility for such a study. By mid-2020, the ACM envisages to announce the (first) results of the study. The ACM has announced that its first step will be to get in touch with market participants, and discuss questions such as:

  • What types of activity do Big Techs have planned for the Dutch payments market over the next few years?
  • What is the impact on competition of the Big Techs’ entry into the Dutch payments market?
  • On what aspects should ACM focus in its market study?

Broader context

This market study is yet another illustration that the consequences of digitalization on competition are on the top the agendas of competition authorities worldwide.