The free market economy is based on competition. The European Commission and the national competition authorities are tasked with ensuring that this competition is free and fair. Houthoff’s Competition Team advises and assists national and international companies, institutions and governments in procedures before the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), the European Commission, foreign competition authorities, and the relevant (specialised) courts. Its expertise includes merger control procedures, dawn raids and investigations into alleged cartels or abuse of dominance and State aid. Our Competition Team has detailed legal and economic expertise and sector-specific knowledge. We combine legal and economic analyses to achieve optimal solutions and litigation strategies.

The team is located in both Amsterdam and Brussels and is known for its strategic and pragmatic approach, precedent-setting cases, and thought leadership. The Brussels team has a particular focus on State aid.

  • “Clients value the ‘tailor-made solutions’ provided, alongside the team’s ‘holistic approach’ and ‘commercial understanding.’”      
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2019 Edition)
  • “They are really good at immediately identifying the problems and coming up with practical solutions.”
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2019 Edition)
  • “Praised for its ‘sound industry knowledge and professionalism’ Houthoff’s team further stands out for its ‘specific industry knowledge and high-quality associates.’”
    Legal 500, EU and Competition (2019 Edition)
  • "Clients hail the team as experts on competition law,' and commend the firm's 'strong network in the healthcare sector'."
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2018 Edition)
  • "The lawyers draw praise for their 'intellectual drive, quick adaptation to new circumstances in the case and huge client commitment,' as well as their 'excellent communication skills'."
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2018 Edition)
  • "The lawyers are very knowledgeable and quick to respond to queries with a detailed and well-explained analysis."
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2018 Edition)
  • "Houthoff’s department is ‘very responsive’ and ‘really knows the industry’, with particular expertise in enforcement and technology-related competition issues."
    Legal 500, EU and Competition (2018 Edition)
  • "I think they have very broad expertise; there is always someone in the firm who can help you with a question. They're quick to respond."
    Chambers Europe, Competition/European Law (2017 Edition)
  • "Houthoff Buruma has the size and experience to handle the full range of competition law matters."
    Legal 500, EU and Competition (2017 Edition)


A merger, acquisition or joint venture may require prior notification to the competent competition authority or competition authorities. With experience in more than 250 merger notifications, including notifications in all major jurisdictions, our specialists are able to provide excellent advice on the opportunities and strategies involved in these processes.

Our Competition Team has been involved in innovative vertical integrations, including between map maker Tele Atlas and TomTom and, more recently, complex horizontal mergers, including the merger of the AMC and VUmc university hospitals.


Houthoff has a strong track record in cartel cases including the landmark T-Mobile case on cartels and the concept of ‘object restriction’ before the European Court of Justice. Our Competition Team has also assisted in many national and international cartel investigations and leading abuse of dominance cases like the high profile NS (Dutch Railways) case before the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets. See Competition Litigation for our expertise and experience in the area of cartel damages claims.


State aid rules forbid the state from conferring selective commercial advantages on companies without prior notification to the European Commission. A failure to notify or to correctly utilise an exemption to notification or to meet the requirements of the market economy operator criterion can have far-reaching financial consequences. An investigation by the European Commission or a judgment from a Dutch court can result in an obligation for the company benefiting from aid to repay the financial advantage to the state, with interest. Moreover, an agreement resulting in unlawful State aid may be found to be void in whole or in part in legal proceedings.

Our specialists have extensive experience designing projects that are State aid compliant and, where necessary, representing clients before the European Commission, national courts and European courts. For example, we successfully represented the Dutch Municipality of Eindhoven in the European Commission's investigation into allegations that State aid had been provided to the Dutch football club PSV.

  • Houthoff represented Sligro before the Rotterdam District Court in a procedure in which Sligro's competitors (through Maxxam) challenged the ACM's clearance of the acquisition by Sligro of a part of Heineken's wholesale activities. This matter concerns a rare appeal of a merger clearance decision, in which Maxxam challenged the methodology applied by the ACM. The District Court sided with the ACM and Sligro and held that the ACM had analysed the consequences of the acquisition in sufficient detail, including the impact on the wholesale market of a related distribution agreement between Sligro and Heineken. Notably, the District Court confirmed the relevance of the economic model developed by Sligro.

  • Houthoff represented Sligro Food Group in the strategic, long-term partnership with Heineken Netherlands for beer and cider logistics in the Netherlands, and the sale of other parts of the Heineken beverages wholesaler to Sligro Food Group. The partnership makes Heineken Sligro’s number one partner for beer and cider.

  • Early 2017, Profile launced a campaign in which it alleged that 'Profile Brand Service' (Profile Merkonderhoud) was much cheaper (up to 28%) than the service of the authorised repairers. It did not use and trademark rights of car manufacturers.

    Again, Houthoff acted on behalf of 18 car manufacturers and made an end to the Profile campaign, as Profile was unable to demonstrate that it was always much cheaper than the authorised repairers.

  • The growing importance of e-commerce often creates conflicting interests between manufacturers or wholesalers and retailers, particularly if these retailers perceive the e-commerce activities of their suppliers as unfair competition for their stores. Houthoff has supported the franchisees of one of the Ahold banners in working out a solution that seeks to find a solution for this conflict by introducing detailed rules, a compensation scheme and clear rights and obligations for both parties. 

  • In 2016 KwikFit launched a campaign in which it alleged that the 'KwikFit Brand Service' (Kwikfit Merkbeurt) was always 30% cheaper than service carried out by authorised repairers. In doing so, it made use of the trademark rights (logos) of many car manufacturers.

    On behalf of 18 car manufacturers, Houthoff challenged the validity of the KwikFit campaign. Following discussions with the fast fitter, KwikFit gave up its claims and ceased the use of the logos.

  • Houthoff assisted the AMC and VUmc hospitals in obtaining the required approval from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) for an administrative merger. The approval enables the two Amsterdam-based university medical centres to cooperate on patient care, research, education and training without limitation. This will create the biggest university medical centre in the Netherlands.
  • Houthoff is representing the association of realtors, VBO Makelaar, in ongoing civil proceedings before the court of Amsterdam against Funda. Funda is the largest online real estate portal in the Netherlands and a subsidiary of the largest association of realtors in the Netherlands, NVM. The case is one of the few Dutch cases based on abuse of dominance. The case revolves around discriminatory practices by Funda to the detriment of VBO Makelaar's members, including:

    - ranking listings of VBO Makelaar’s members systematically lower than listings of NVM’s members.

    - charging VBO Makelaar’s members significantly higher prices for advertisements than NVM’s members.
  • Houthoff advised Media Markt – Saturn on the establishment of a joint venture with Talpa, Juke Nederland B.V. Juke has launched an online on-demand music streaming service offering unlimited access to songs, playlists and radio content.
  • Representing various large construction companies such as BAM, in state aid litigation on contracts for the realisation of major projects concluded before the financial crisis.
  • As reported in the news (most recently 4 April by BBC), in March 2013 the European Commission started a formal state aid investigation against the Netherlands in several cases concerning presumed state aid to football clubs. The most important case concerns presumed state aid to PSV, one of the largest clubs in the Netherlands. In this case, we represented the municipality of Eindhoven. The cases involving football clubs have received considerable attention in the press. The investigation is ongoing and proceedings against the opening of the second phase state aid investigations have been initiated before the General Court of the EU. In view of recent case law, we defend the view that such an appeal is possible. The judgment of the General Court on this is awaited eagerly by state aid law specialists. We are involved in other investigations on state aid to football clubs, which investigations are not yet public.
  • Advising public bodies and renowned companies on the state aid rules applicable to the roll-out of broadband, environmental taxes, sustainable energy, major regional investment projects and agriculture.
  • Advising corporates on their position vis-à-vis public authorities in tender procedures, and litigation before the Dutch courts.
  • Representing an undertaking in proceedings before the ACM regarding an alleged cover pricing cartel in the construction sector.
  • Advising a US based company on the introduction and distribution of new medical devices in the Netherlands/EU.
  • Advising university medical centres in public tender procedures for IT and electronic medical files.
  • Advising both public bodies and large construction companies on state aid rules in relation to contracts for the realisation of various prestigious projects. In many cases, the financial impact of the application of the state aid rules in the concerned multimillion projects can be considerable.
  • Advising on the establishment of internet pharmacies including various regulatory and competition aspects of internet sales of pharmaceutical products.
  • Advising pharmaceutical wholesale companies on various regulatory aspects of the distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices including the notification, packaging/labelling requirements and CE-marking.
  • Advising a US based company on the regulatory aspects of the introduction and use of electronic devices that produce radiation in the Netherlands.
  • Representing Nationale-Nederlanden, a major insurance company in a preliminary procedure (case C-51/13) before the EU Court. The case concerns questions from the Rotterdam court on the interpretation of EU directives on the life insurance sector and more specifically the pre-contractual information requirements imposed on insurers. The EU Court has ruled in favour of Nationale-Nederlanden on 29 April 2015. The judgement has caused an avalanche of comments and publicity because of the major impact of this case in the sector. Procedures will now continue in many other cases before the national courts based on this judgment.


Competition matters are often very sector-specific. Our Competition Team brings together the experience and knowledge of the specific sectors required for this, including in the areas of Food and Agriculture, Real Estate, Manufacturing, Energy, Transport, Healthcare, Life Sciences and TMT (technology, media and telecom). Our expertise on TMT in particular covers aspects such as digital competition, which includes e-commerce and online platforms. This broad range of knowledge and skills has enabled Houthoff to successfully assist our clients in many sector-specific cases, including the merger between waste processing companies Shanks and Van Gansewinkel, the acquisition of the baking giant Bakkersland by Brogesius, many hospital mergers (including in Rotterdam, Tilburg, Haarlem/Hoofddorp and Amsterdam), the acquisition of large parts of Uniekaas by the German dairy product giant DMK, and the purchase of a substantial real estate portfolio by the American company CBRE.


The Houthoff Dawn Raid App provides information on unexpected inspections by the authorities in the Netherlands, including the ACM and the European Commission. Download the Houthoff Dawn Raid app on iOS.

Weyer VerLoren van Themaat

Key Contact

Advocaat | Partner
+31 20 605 61 83
+31 6 5365 5833
Gerrit Oosterhuis

Key Contact

Advocaat | Counsel
+32 2 507 98 13
+32 4 7394 8686
Greetje van Heezik

Key Contact

Advocaat | Counsel
+32 2 507 98 10
+32 4 7586 8593