ACM fines DeReisPlanner for debt collection practices involving unlawful invoices for holiday villa rentals
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed a fine on the company that offered holiday villas under the name DeReisPlanner for wrongful debt collection after misleading telemarketing calls. DeReisPlanner called consumers, and made unclear offers involving holiday villa rentals. Consumers subsequently received invoices without any contracts having been signed. This is not allowed. Contracts are only valid if consumers have agreed in writing to offers that are clear. ACM has imposed a fine of 360,000 euros on the company behind DeReisPlanner, NOPN B.V. (currently called Imperial Food B.V.). This fine has been raised because the company failed to cooperate with ACM’s investigation. A personal fine of 40,000 euros has been imposed on the individual who had given instructions with regard to this violation.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: “Pressuring customers into paying wrongful invoices is strictly prohibited. We take firm action against such practices. That is why we have imposed fines on both the company and the executive.”
What was going on?
Through its consumer information portal ConsuWijzer, ACM has received reports filed by consumers who had been called by DeReisPlanner. They were offered a deal that involved renting a luxurious holiday villa for two weeks per year for 149.99 euros without any additional costs. Consumers were told they would receive information about this deal per email, but some of them did not receive this email. However, those consumers subsequently did receive invoices that they had to pay. Consumers who refused to pay, because they were of the opinion that they had not signed any contracts, were pressured into paying. DeReisPlanner never disclosed what holiday villas these consumers would be able to book, not even to consumers who did pay. Furthermore, it turned out that the company operated from Turkey, and not from the address that was listed on its website.
The customer acquisition activities over the phone took place at least between 13 September 2017 through 13 December 2017. In January 2018, ACM issued a warning against this company because many consumers had received invoices without having signed any legally valid contract. After carrying out an investigation, ACM established that the company had committed various violations of consumer protection regulations, and has therefore imposed a fine on the company. It will also get an additional fine for having failed to cooperate with ACM’s investigation. In addition, the executive, who played a significant role in the violations, will get a personal fine.
The company still has the opportunity to file objections or an appeal against ACM’s decision.
Even to this day, ACM continues to receive reports about debt collection agencies under different names pressuring consumers into paying invoices for DeReisPlanner. As no valid contracts are considered to have been concluded, we recommend consumers not to pay those invoices.