Two commercial debt relief companies investigated for prohibited practices

commercial debt relief companies

This article was last updated on June 13, 2024

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Two commercial debt relief companies investigated for prohibited practices

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) is investigating whether commercial providers of debt assistance are guilty of deception. These are companies that suggest online that they operate on behalf of a municipality.

Municipal debt assistance is free, but the companies surveyed offer debt assistance for a fee. This is prohibited in many cases.

Private individuals and companies with debt problems can contact the municipality. They are legally obliged to offer free help if the debts are so great that they can no longer get out of it themselves. The assistance consists, for example, of drawing up a repayment arrangement with the creditors, whereby part of the debts is forgiven.

The idea behind the legal ban on offering paid debt assistance is that making money from vulnerable people with financial problems is not desirable. The ban only applies if the debt package includes credit debts, for example debts with online stores.

Strict rules

Some financial service providers such as budget coaches and administrators try to sell their services under the heading ‘debt assistance’. apply to them strict rules. The ACM is now investigating whether two companies comply with this requirement.

The companies that the ACM investigates recruit customers with separate sites that provide all kinds of information about municipal debt assistance for 28 different municipalities. The registration button on all these sites leads to two commercial financial service providers that operate nationally.

“That seems to conflict with the ACM’s condition that a provider must be clear about who he is,” says lawyer André Moerman of “I already received a report from someone who thought he had been referred online by the municipality of Breda, but ended up with a commercial service provider that operates nationally.”

Entrepreneurs helped for free

Commercial financial service providers are also trying to offer debt assistance to companies in financial need, while this assistance is in principle available free of charge from municipalities. “These service providers operate along the edges of what is allowed and sometimes go beyond it,” says Jacqueline Zuidweg. Her company provides debt assistance for entrepreneurs on behalf of various municipalities.

Zuidweg sees that in the business community, lawyers and accountants also offer themselves as commercial debt counselors to a vulnerable target group. The ban on paid debt assistance does not apply to them.

Supervisor ACM tapped last year already reprimanded some commercial providers of debt assistance because they were not clear about the costs and conditions of their offer. In January convict the Overijssel court found an entrepreneur who illegally offered debt assistance.

Consumer counter

The ACM cannot yet say when the ongoing investigation into commercial debt assistance providers will be completed. The regulator says it will continue to closely monitor the market for commercial debt assistance providers, including on the basis of signals from the public. Anyone can contact the ACM ConsuWijzer consumer desk for this.

The regulator increasingly sees commercial companies offering services that are aimed at consumers in a vulnerable position and that respond to those vulnerabilities. So recently became a company reprimanded that offered courses worth 1,500 euros to increase the chances of social housing.

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