No money back because of “general conditions”; when are they too strict?

During the COVID19 situation, we’ve had many questions on vouchers, return policies and cancellation conditions. Often we hear that no refunds were given because of “general conditions”. Here’s what your rights are.

General conditions are the fine print that accompany a sale. Actually, nobody reads them as they are long, boring and unreadable because the font is so small. They are printed on the back of the invoice or somewhere hidden in a website. However, general conditions are often very important when you try to cancel a sale. If you can, try to read at least the cancellation policy because during the COVID period, this may be the most important condition.

Sometimes the general conditions are even not applicable, because they are too strict. For instance, a dog hotel had a cancellation policy where the guest (owner of the dog) can cancel the reservation, but has to pay 50 per cent of the complete reservation. Even if the cancellation is done many days in advance, e.g. 30 days. Dutch legislation states that the seller can only request a cancellation fee, if the seller has incurred reasonable costs. If they request a 50% cancellation fee, you should complain and ask what the costs are that the hotel actually made. Often you will see that you will get a full refund.

Dutch legislation is very favourable for consumers. Conditions that are too strict are simply not applicable. In some cases the seller states that no money will be returned, only a voucher. In particular if the seller cancels the reservation or purchase, a full cash refund has to be offered. A voucher that can only be used in the shop itself is unlawful.

Let us know your experience and see if we can assist.

Expat aan de Maas.


Trip got cancelled because of COVID19?

As COVID19 requires governments to impose travel restrictions, many people are confronted with the impossibility to visit their travel / holiday destination. In some cases, the airline or hotel will refund the ticket or booking. Some company do this as a courtesy. But what are your rights?

If the airline cancels the flight (e.g. due to economic reasons as there are not sufficient passengers), you have the right to be fully refunded. Don't accepts voucher, but a full monetary refund.

If a hotel cancels the hotel (e.g. because the government has decided that the hotel should be closed), again you have the right to be refunded. Simply, becuase it wasn't you that cancelled, but the hotel.

The matter becomes different if the traveller cancels, either because of fears for contracting a virus or because their own government does not allow travel. In those cases, it's best to look at the "annuleringsverzekering" or cancellation clauses in the travel insurance.

Car Maintenance

Troubles with your car and the garage.

We occasionally receive questions on disputes with garage and repair costs of their car. In one instance, a customer was presented a bill which was many times higher than expected. He dropped his vehicle off at the garage for a yearly inspection, which would cost around 150 euro.

The garage not only inspect the vehicle but also performed some reparations, which were not communicated prior to the customer. The bill ultimately added up to 500 euro.

The customer disagreed with the bill and stated that the garage should have informed him before actually repairing the car. The garage maintained that the reparations were essential.

In cases where no settlement can be reached, it's advised to write to Bovag.nl. Most garages are part of an organisation in The Netherlands, called Bovag. This organisation provides in a dispute settlement mechanism, at no extra costs.

If that fails, obviously you could go to court (small claims court or Sector Kanton), which costs around 80 euro to start. The best option is to negotiate. In order to be successful, it's better to know what your rights are. Of course, the garage should have informed the customer prior to repairing the car. In this case, the customer got a discount on the reparation and an apology, to which the customer agreed. 


Buying property in The Netherlands

Buying a house in The Netherlands is pretty straightforward and well regulated. You probably found the website Funda to start your search for houses.

Once you found a property of your interest, you might contact the real estate agent. But maybe you also would like to do it yourself and check what price is reasonable. For that, you only need to pay 2,95 euro to check historical prices data in the neighbourhood from the official Kadaster (government) at https://www.kadaster.nl/producten/woning/koopsominformatie Once you negotiated a fair price, it's important to check if the house is in a proper shape. For that, you'd need to pay around 300 euro to have the building inspected (bouwtechnische inspectie / keuring). A good comparison site is http://www.bouwkeuringvergelijk.nl/bouwkundigekeuring.html.

Good luck! and of course, we're ready to assist info@expataandemaas.com


Dual nationality

Dual nationality in The Netherlands is discouraged by the NLD government. Therefore, when applying for Dutch nationality through - for example - "naturalisatie", the Dutch government requests you to try to lose your other nationality.

Some countries do not allow you to lose your nationality. These countries include for instance Morocco. You can check the list at: https://ind.nl/Paginas/Landenlijst-behoud-nationaliteit.aspx.


Flights and rights

If your flight is delayed, you often get compensation. The conditions are straightforward: you fly with a EU carrier, or the flight is from an EU country, and the delay is over 3 hours, you will get compensation. The amount of compensation depends: flight > 1500 km: 250 Euro. 1500 - 3500 km: 400 euro and more than 3500 = 600 Euro.

Getting compensation is easy with regular carriers, but more difficult with low-cost carriers like e.g. RyanAir. You can claim compensation yourself or we'll help you with it.

Don't forget: compensation is separate from other 'damages'. E.g. you have the right to get food and drinks and a reasonable amount of money for clothes as well!

If you luggage is delayed, you will be compensated for clothes etc if the delay is over 24 hrs. The amount depends a bit on how many kg your suitcases were. We're happy to assist you with that claim. We've been pretty successful in the past.

Here's the links of the Europrean Union and IATA.


International marriages; which laws apply?

When both partners have different nationality and live in a foreign country, it's difficult to figure out which law applies to their marriage.

Let's say the husband is from Luxembourg and the wife is from Italy. They decide to live in The Netherlands. After 3 years they divorce, but which law applies? What if the wife still has property in Italy, while the husband has a bank account in the UK.

You can imagine that this will take some time to figure out. To avoid high legal fees, it's best to decide which laws apply by choosing in the marriage certificate. E.g. the couple could have chosen Dutch law to apply.

If there is no chosen law to apply in the marriage certificate, and the marriage has been concluded before 2019 three main criteria apply: (1) where does the couple live or has lived mainly (2) does the couple have the same nationality? or (3) which country they are connected to mostly.
In our example, condition (1) applies mostly as the Italian and Luxembourgian couple mainly lives in The Netherlands.

If the marriage is after 2019 the condition of same nationality is most important! Therefore with more recent marriages you'll see that the nationality of both partners is the strongest criteria. Difficult, isn't it! My advice is to mention it in the marriage certificate. This can be done even after marriage!


Can your landlord visit you unexpectedly?

The landlord owns the property that you rented, so you might think that he or she could just enter the house or apartment just whenever they want. Dutch law, however, is strict.

There is a balance between your right to privacy and the rights of the owner / landlord. An unannounced visit by the landlord is considered a strong violation of the privacy of the lessee.
The landlord my request an inspection of the property, but it is up to the lessee to allow and to cooperate with this request.

What can you do if the landlord still visits you unexpectedly? Well, writing a letter often helps... and changing the locks is also perfectly legal. In worst case you could ask assistance from the police.

Again, if you require help in such situations, don't hesitate to contact us.


Brexit... now what

With Brexit being a fact, what happens to those that want to visit the UK and have a residence permit for the Netherlands, which is valid for travel throughout the EU?

The UK is not part of the EU anymore. Therefore the UK can decide on matters regarding residency and visa by themselves. While within the EU, people could travel quite freely, travelling to the UK can be problematic.

It depends on the deal that the EU can broker with UK. For now (at least until the end of 2020), the UK mentioned that those having an EU permit can travel to the UK it is still questionable if that would remain the same in fhe future.

While it is unlikely that the UK will start to require visas for EU passport holders, they might start to ask for a visa for non-EU passport holders that have an EU residence permit and living in the EU. It is still very much unknown.

We'll keep you updated as more information on the deal will come. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment or send an email to us at info@expataandemaas.com


Warranty in The Netherlands

Buying products in The Netherlands comes with warranty, but how does it work in practice?

Consumer products come with warranty. Generally speaking, products should last at least for 2 years. This is a European-wide rule. However, in The Netherlands a slightly different - more strict - rule applies: a product should last as long as you'd normally expect it to last. Even if two years have expired after the date of purchase, The Netherlands may additionally add several years to it. E.g. a laptop of a renowned brand (let's say Apple) should last you longer than the minimum of 2 years. Therefore, you will see that most stores will offer a longer period than 2 years, often 3 years.

What to do if a products fails you? Most shops will acknowledge that the warranty and will provide you a new product, repair the product or will offer you your money back. You will need to go to the shop where you have bought the product. In some situations, the shop will refer you to the manufacturer, but this is incorrect; it's the shop's responsibility to take the product back. Also, in some cases the shop offers you a voucher instead of your money back. This is incorrect; you should be given your money back and cannot be obliged to accept a voucher.

In some situations you will need to force the shop to accept your claim. This can be done by formal letter. Of course, we're there to help you writing such a letter, or you can use this standardised letter at the link on the bottom of this post.



Residence permit for Japanese and Americans made easy

Friendship treaties between Japan, America and The Netherladns make it easy for Japanese and American citizens to obtain a residence permit

Japanese citizens

Based on the bilateral agreements between The Netherlands and Japan dating back from 1875 and 1913, Japanese citizens were invited to open their businesses in The Netherlands and obtain a residence permit. The criteria for the residence permit are straightforward and easy to comply with. All what is required is that the applicant would open a business and have sufficient investment capital. The easiest form of business is a one-person business (registration would cost around 50 Euro) and a capital of at least 4.500 Euro (which can reside in your bank account). Based on those criteria, a Japanese person can obtain a Dutch residence permit. Contact us if you require assistance, or visit the Dutch immigration service at www.ind.nl and the Dutch Chamber of Commerce at www.kvk.nl

American citizens

Similar to Japanese citizens, American citizens can also obtain a residence permit in The Netherlands on the same criteria. The bilateral treaty between the US and The Netherlands opened up the trade between the two countries and eased the conditions for receiving a residence permit. Again, a resgistration of a business with the Chamber of Commerice is required, alongside the minimum investment capital of 4.500 Euro.
#friendshiptreaty #japan #america #residencepermit

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