It can happen to everybody: you forgot to pay your energy bill or telephone bill. Then you might get a letter from a collection agency (incassobureau). They have to stick to certain rules, but unfortunately they often don’t do that.
What to do in case of an undeserved bill
It can even happen that you receive an undeserved bill from a collection agent. Therefore it is advised to ask the collection agency to show you the original bill and prove that a payment reminder has been sent. It is also advised to ask for a specification of the costs: what are the costs in the original bill and which costs have been added later.
Collection agents often declare costs to which they are not entitled such as aanmaningskosten or herinneringskosten (reminder costs), administratiekosten (administration costs), dossierkosten (file costs) and bureaukosten (office costs). All these costs are illegal. The only costs a collection agent can declare are the costs of the original bill, collection costs (incassokosten), interest (rente) and sometimes VAT (BTW).
Collection agencies sometimes threaten to evict you from your home. However they are not authorised to do so. They can only ask you to pay, but they can’t use any legal force. Only a bailiff can – after permission from the court - evict you from your home or take possession of your wages or benefits. Collection agencies often use this kind of threats to pressure you more. However, if they really want to execute such a threat they first need to contact a bailiff who can go to court.
It is strongly advised not to pay undeserved bills as this only supports collection agencies in continuing illegal practice.
The Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) developed a number of online tools to check if collection agencies stick to the rules. The toolkit offers help to:
- Check if a claim is correct
- Assess if collection fees and interest are according to the law
- Find out if pressure in a letter from a collection agent goes too far
- Use sample letters in case a collection agency doesn’t follow the rules.
You can find the tools on www.acm.nl/incasso (Dutch only).
The steps to follow when you receive a letter from a collection agency is available on /about-access/features/news/letters-from-collection-agencies-not-always-accurate.aspx
If you need any help with this, you can contact a lawyer or Het Juridisch Loket, www.juridischloket.nl (Dutch only)