Spiralling fine collection fees are pushing people into debt: VK

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Collection costs for unpaid fines are causing financial problems for “tens of thousands” of households, the Volkskrant said on Tuesday.

Top-up costs for unpaid fines, which are collected by the judicial collection agency CJIB and are not usually made public, represent an annual €137 million windfall for the state, the paper said. It based is claim on data requested from the agency under freedom of information legislation.

According to figures from statistics agency CBS quoted by the paper some 125,000 households are struggling with the mounting costs of collection fees.

Most people get into trouble because of non-payment of fines for uninsured cars and motorcycles, which represent a quarter of the collection costs.

Uninsured vehicles can ramp up fines even when not on the road. A twice-yearly fine of €370 to €400 with added collection costs can land owners with a bill of  €2,400, the paper said.

Caretaker justice minister Dilan Yesilgösz said in a reaction that the mounting costs are “steep but avoidable” by paying the fine on time or using a payment plan.

However according to Merel van Rooy, a  researcher at public economy institute IPE, those most likely to get into trouble are already in debt and are less capable of managing their finances. “It’s a group that will often not open their mail and so incur three times the collection costs very quickly,” she said.

Many people are also having trouble paying traffic fines. “The tax office is the biggest claimant, closely followed by the CJIB,” Bahattin Turkoglu of debt help organisation De Schie in Capelle aan den IJssel told the paper. Unopened envelopes are an everyday occurrence, he said. “People bring in Lidl bags full of unopened mail,” he told the paper.

Of the eight million annual traffic fines, some 900,000 are not paid immediately and a collection fee of half the amount is added to the bill. In 459,000 cases the CJIB sends a second reminder, doubling the amount.

According to Turkoglu the agency is “implacable” with people who have not turned to a debt help organisation and will not hear of alternative terms of payment. “It cannot be the case that the government is getting people into trouble,” he said.

The collection cost hikes were established under then justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin in 2012 as a way of boosting the budget, earlier documents have shown.

In November, the supreme court advised against a projected hike of 10% for traffic fines.  They are “not meant to fix budget deficits but to increase traffic safety and must be proportionate”, it said.

The justice ministry said it would investigate the effects of the hike and would also look into ways to limit mounting collection costs. It will report on its findings in 2024.

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