Public tendering of contracts for the recovery of passenger cars on all Dutch roads (1999)

Since the advent of the car, the recovery of vehicles involved in accidents on Dutch roads has been in the hands of a virtually perfect cartel. On one side of the market, there are the incident rooms, specialised service providers, who work for the insurance companies. On the other side there is the "VBS" (Association of Recovery Specialists) representing the interests of over 200 small-sized firms spread throughout the country which are on stand-by 24 hours a day to provide assistance in the event of road accidents.

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Until 1999 the organisation of the market was clear-cut. Each recovery firm had its own district where it held the exclusive right to carry out recovery work for all incident rooms. The limits of the districts were defined down to the exact house numbers per street and these limits were known to all incident rooms. Prices for recovery work were set annually in negotiations between the collective incident rooms and the VBS.

The system was clear and easy to manage but also had a few major drawbacks. It kept the industry in a tight mould that had not changed since the 70s: there was no room for economies of scale, entrepreneurship and new entrants. The insurance companies, for their part, were unable to pursue a systematic quality policy and were more or less condemned to working with the existing contract parties.

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However, opposition of two non-districted recovery firms, the Amsterdamse Bergings Combinatie and Wim v.d. Biesebos VOF, finally led to the system's downfall. After a ten-year struggle fighting for their right to enter the market, the two companies finally won their case in 1998: the existing market partitioning system was banned and the incident rooms were obliged by the "NMa" (Dutch Competition Authority) to award contracts through a public tendering procedure.

To this end, the incident rooms joined forces in the "Stichting IMN" (Netherlands Incident Management Foundation) which requested Bridgecraft in 1998 to design a tendering procedure compatible with the requirements of the NMa as well as the commercial vision of the incident rooms. In 1999 Bridgecraft was commissioned to implement the tendering procedure for Stichting IMN. Bridgecraft carried out the entire procedure right up until the contracts for all 233 districts had been finalised. The competition law experts of De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek played a central role in the project.

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