The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is conducting an investigation into rental sites that possibly mislead consumers. This concerns websites that present a large selection of rental homes, to which you can reply after paying a fee. Through its consumers information portal ACM ConsuWijzer, ACM has received many complaints about such websites. Consumers indicate that many of the presented rental homes are not available or do not even exist. If consumers express their interest in a rental home through these websites, they are unable to contact the rental agent.
Edwin van Houten, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, adds: “Consumers are finding it very difficult in the current housing market to find a suitable rental home. Some rental websites take advantage of this situation. Consumers are promised access to a wide and unique selection of rental homes if they take out a paid subscription to such websites. In practice however, it turns out that those homes are not available. Our investigation focuses on the businesses behind these websites.”
How do these rental websites operate?
If you are looking for a rental home, you can take out a subscription to a rental site. Such a subscription offers you access to the rental-home selections of third parties such as rental agents. You can then filter by region or segment. It is basically an online search service. On the website, you can inform a rental agent that you are interested in a home. It will then turn out that it is often not possible getting in touch with the rental agent through the website, or that the home is not or no longer available, whereas, according to the website, the home should still be available.
What are the rules?
Most rental websites compile the selections of third parties, and merely offer a search service, but do not act as agents. Businesses that offer online services must inform consumers clearly about what they offer. Consumers that take out paid subscriptions on such websites must be given information in advance about how the selection of homes that are presented has been made and whether the rental agent can be contacted directly. ACM suspects that not all websites inform consumers about these aspects properly or clearly. Since these practices of the rental websites are possibly also fraud, information has been shared with the internet fraud unit of the police (in Dutch: Landelijk Meldpunt Internet Oplichting, LMIO), which has also launched an investigation.
Tips for consumers that are searching for a rental home
Consumers that are searching for a rental home are also able to contact rental agents directly. Rental agents often publish their selections for free, arranges viewings, and mediates between lessor and lessee. For more information about what you should pay attention to when looking for a rental home, visit ACM’s consumer information portal ACM ConsuWijzer .