Netherlands: Watchdog imposed a fine of €1.84M for deleting WhatsApp chats during a dawn raid

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on a company for obstructing an ACM investigation. During a recent dawn raid, employees of the company under investigation for having concluded anticompetitive agreements left several WhatsApp groups, and deleted chat conversations. That is prohibited.

ACM is authorized to perform unannounced company inspections if it has a suspicion that the Dutch Competition Act has been violated. All companies are required to cooperate with ACM investigations, and evidence cannot be destroyed, withheld, or disposed of in any way whatsoever. In this particular case, the company’s employees left WhatsApp groups, and deleted chats. These chats could have contained evidence related to the investigation.

At the beginning of any dawn raid, ACM carefully explains that all employees must cooperate with the investigation, and that they cannot destroy any evidence. That is why ACM takes this case very seriously, and imposes a fine of €1.84 million (US$2.08 million).

The company in question has acknowledged that some of its employees have indeed wrongfully left several WhatsApp groups and deleted chat conversations. The company has fully cooperated with the investigation into the deleted materials to an extent that goes beyond what is required statutorily. That is why ACM has lowered the initial fine by 20%.

The name of the company in question will be disclosed once the investigation into the anticompetitive arrangements has been completed.

Full Content: Authority for Consumers & Markets

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