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ACM takes action against unlawful charges by rental agencies

08-02-2019

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will act against rental agencies that charge lessees with unlawful fees. Rental agencies that do so, abuse the vulnerable positions of lessees in the overheated Dutch housing market. An investigation conducted by ACM shows that approximately 70% of the rental agencies charge lessees with unlawful fees. The average fee per service is over 200 euro. In addition, ConsuWijzer, ACM’s consumer information portal, has been receiving complaints about this practice.

Rental agencies are not allowed to charge lessees with fees if they work by order of the lessor, not even if the agency calls these charges commission, administrative fees, contracting fees, filing fees or registration fees. ACM already took action against unlawful agency fees in 2014 and 2016.

Because many rental agencies still have not adjusted their practices, ACM is calling on consumers to report to ConsuWijzer if they have had to pay any unlawful agency fees. This will help ACM tackle this problem. On ConsuWijzer.nl, consumers can find more information about their rights concerning rental agencies, and also a sample letter that they can use to reclaim any unlawfully paid fees.

Reports to ConsuWijzer are important for ACM’s regulatory work

For consumers, ConsuWijzer is a treasure-trove of information. Consumers can get advice about their rights as consumers from ConsuWijzer using email, telephone and WhatsApp. On ConsuWijzer.nl, consumers can find information and sample letters themselves in order to exercise their rights.

For ACM, ConsuWijzer offers invaluable information about the problems that consumers experience. In 2018, ConsuWijzer received almost 60,000 questions and reports from consumers. In 2017, this number was 57,000.

The most important subjects that consumers contacted ConsuWijzer about in 2018, were:

  • Defective products and guarantee;
  • Receiving unlawful bills and debt collection;
  • Cancelling subscriptions or contracts and tacit extension;
  • Selling over the telephone;
  • Delivery problems.

In 2018, the site was visited 3.3 million times. On ConsuWijzer.nl, consumers mostly searched for information about:

  • Unsolicited follow-up shipments and debt collection (campaign ‘No order, no pay’);
  • Cancelling subscriptions or contracts and tacit extension;
  • Their rights in case of a defective product (guarantees);
  • Checklist for safe shopping (campaign 'Online shop or fake shop?’);
  • Distance-selling(buying online).

Consumer reports have led to actions by ACM in 2018, for example:

  • A fine on a provider of holiday homes because of unclear prices;
  • A fine on debt collection agencies because of unfair practices;
  • Warnings for misleading telemarketing practices;
  • The campaign ‘Online shop or fake shop?’ in which ACM explained consumers what they should pay attention to when buying something through social media: check reviews, only pay afterwards or insured.

Consumer reports are an important source of information for ACM’s regulatory work in 2019 as well, for example in ACM’s action against unlawful rental agency fees.