Court orders Amsterdam to stop excluding students from energy bill compensation
The municipality of Amsterdam has wrongly excluded students from the one-time energy allowance for low-income households, the court in the city has ruled. A student from the capital took the matter to court to challenge the city's rejection of his application for the energy allowance.
The one-time energy subsidy of 1,300 euros is part of a national scheme that was created in 2022 for people with low incomes who are affected by the rising energy prices. The municipality of Amsterdam stated that students could not be considered comparable to people who have to survive on a minimum income, and are therefore ineligible for the allowance.
But the court disagreed. The group of people who are eligible for the one-time energy allowance includes more factors than minimum income households as the only factor. "The scheme also includes young people aged 21 and older who are at the start of their career and who receive a starting salary of just above the minimum wage," the court said. "There are students who are in exactly the same situation as this group in terms of their income and living situation." That is why the court considered it "unequal treatment of comparable" situations.
The municipality has also insufficiently demonstrated that paying the energy allowance to students would lead to that group being over compensated, the court continued. Because students, like other applicants for the allowance, must meet more requirements than just the income requirement.
For example, someone has to pay his or her own energy costs, explained lawyer Jaap Kotteman of the group, Legal Advice Wanted. His organization assisted the student in Amsterdam. He said students who live with their parents and do not pay them anything are not eligible for the allowance.
"The ruling does not mean that the student will receive the energy allowance," the court said about the student from Amsterdam. It is not clear whether he himself meets all the conditions for the one-time energy surcharge, but Kotteman said the student does meet the criteria. The municipality must make another decision on his application within six weeks.
Kotteman is happy with the verdict. Legal Advice Wanted is planning to file more lawsuits in Amsterdam and other municipalities. If necessary, the organization can assist everyone individually, he said, "but we actually expect that all municipalities will now look at their policies."
National student union LSVb also called it "extremely good news." The organization's chair, Joram van Velzen, directed comments to Poverty Policy Minister Carola Schouten, saying, "Come up with a national policy for energy allowances now and prevent dozens of other lawsuits."
The municipality of Amsterdam was not yet able to comment substantively on the matter on Tuesday afternoon. "We will study the verdict and consider what to do next," said the spokesperson.
Reporting by ANP