Finance Min. calls web shops to sell less on credit; too many people in arrears

Wopke Hoekstra in Brussels
Wopke Hoekstra representing the Netherlands at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. Nov. 8, 2019Ale_MiDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Finance believes that too many people in the Netherlands buy things on credit, and as a result an "unacceptably high" number of Dutch are in arrears on their payments. He is therefore giving online stores a year to improve this situation, or he will take measures himself, he wrote in a letter to parliament, the Telegraaf reports.

According to the Minister, people who buy items on installment plans online need to be protected. "Often it concerns people who already have problematic debts", Hoekstra said, according to the newspaper. "Their situation threatens to go from bad to worse through these loans."

Last year 34 percent of people who had credit with home shopping organizations were in arrears with their payments. That has since been reduced to 26 percent, the newspaper writes based on figures from the credit registration office BKR. But according to Hoekstra, a big part of this improvement is due to incidental write-offs - debt collection agencies closed files with bad debts. More must therefore be done, he said.

Exactly what he wants online stores to do to make sure people buy less on credit, is not clear. But there is political support for helping people with debts. Last year, several parties in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, called for helping people with debts faster.

Late last year the European Consumer Payment Report showed that people in the Netherlands have a high mortgage debt, but relatively low other debts, according to RTL Nieuws. Less than one in six Dutch borrowed money in the past six months, or maxed out their credit cards, in order to pay bills. That is the lowest percentage in Europe.