Consumer group threatens KLM with legal action over 'no show' charges

Dutch consumers association Consumentenbond says it will take airline KLM to court unless it scraps the 'no show' clause in its terms and conditions by December 12. The clause states that all the following flights attached to the ticket are cancelled if a passenger fails to turn up for a particular flight. So if someone misses an outward  flight, the return journey will be automatically cancelled. If the passenger wants to make use of the return flight, they have to pay a hefty fee. The Consumentenbond says it receives regular complaints about the problem and cites the case of a man who could not fly with the rest of his family from Amsterdam to Munich because he was sick. He got to Munich by other means but when the family arrived to check in to fly home, he discovered his ticket had been cancelled. He had to pay €250 to travel, only to be allocated the same seat next to his family as in the original ticket. The Consumentenbond is one of nine European consumer groups hoping to force airlines to get rid of the clause in a concerted campaign. 'The ‘no-show’ clause is downright unfair. The passenger has paid for the tickets and expects to be able to use them,' said Monique Goyens, director of European consumer lobby group BEUC. 'You might have missed your outbound flight, or found a more convenient way to get to point B, there is no excuse for airlines to cancel the remainder of your ticket.' KLM told broadcaster NOS that it first wanted to study the lobby group's letter before making a detailed comment. However, a spokesman said that it is important passengers travel as outlined when they made their booking. 'If a passenger wants to deviate from this, then KLM reserves the right to charge a fee.'  More >

Hard Brexit to cost government €2.3bn

If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal, it would cost the Dutch government €2.3bn in the coming two years, according to the Dutch audit office. The main expenses would be for extra customs and food safety services (€700m) and €1.6bn in higher EU contributions, the audit office says in a new report. If the current deal on the table wins approval, little will change for the Netherlands in 2019 and 2020, the audit office said. A hard Brexit would result in €1.6bn in extra payments to the EU, to help compensate for the loss of Britain's contributions. That will go up to €2.5bn to €3bn a year from 2026.  If the deal goes through, the extra contributions would amount to €500m a year, the audit office said. The total extra payment of €2.3bn does not include the impact of import and export duties or an estimate of what a hard Brexit would mean for tax revenues. Property Meanwhile, the Financieele Dagblad reports that the number of online searches made on the Funda in Business property website by people from Britain has gone up sharply. In January 2016, the commercial property website attracted 2,600 visits from the UK, but this month the number of visits has tripled to 7,200 and the number of unique visitors has doubled, the FD said. Some 75% of the visits from the UK come from London. Most were interested in office space in Amsterdam, the website said. However, Rudolf de Boer, managing director of property advisor CBRE, told the paper that the company has only noticed a minor rise in its British client base. Most are small financial companies with up to 35 workers, he told the FD.  More >

Average energy bill to go up €300 in 2019

The average household energy bill is expected to rise by more than €300 next year, according to an analysis by price comparison sites reported in the Telegraaf. The price of gas and electricity has been pushed up by higher levies on CO2 emissions and the accelerated scaling back of gas extraction in Groningen, as well as a €50 rise in the amount households contribute towards sustainable energy subsidies (ODE). Comparison site Pricewise calculated that the average household will spend €2,275 a year on gas and electricity in 2019, compared to €1,949 this year, based on the tariffs for three of the biggest energy suppliers: Eneco, Nuon and Essent. By the same measure energy bills rose for the first time in four years in 2018, having fallen from €1,884 to €1,737 between 2014 and 2017. Another comparison site,, quoted a rise of €360 in 2019 based on a single supplier. The calculation is based on consumption of 3,500 KWh of electricity and 1,500 m3 of gas.  More >

Red deer cull starts on nature reserve

Wardens at the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve between Almere and Lelystad on Monday began a mass cull aimed at reducing the red deer population by 1,800. The final legal obstacle to the cull was lifted on Friday, paving the way for wardens to shoot some 20 animals a day until the population has been cut back to around 490. Hunting can take place 19 hours a day but the court said it should start as early in the morning as possible. The licence runs until April 1. As yet it is unclear what will happen to the dead animals. One option is to leave them to decompose on the reserve, another is to sell them as meat. However, in order to do this, the meat needs to be approved as healthy and no deal has yet been agreed with game butchers, broadcaster NOS said. This weekend it emerged that the ministry of defence has imposed a temporary flight ban over the reserve which local broadcaster Omroep Flevoland says targets small plans, helicopters and drones. A police spokesman said the ban is one of several measures being taken to ensure public order during the cull. Local officials have said earlier they expected protests about the shooting, following several demonstrations last winter.  More >

Climate accord hit by more divisions

Divisions within the coalition about reaching a national climate agreement threaten to derail plans to finalise the deal by December 21, the AD reported on Monday. The paper says the ruling VVD and CDA are particularly concerned about planned increases in the tax on gas and higher petrol prices, and says a deal is now unlikely to be reached before the Christmas break. Sources told the AD that the parties have submitted lists of critical questions to the five groups working on aspects of the agreement, which aims reduce CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030. The CDA, the paper says, is concerned that low income families will be hit unfairly by the increase in the tax on gas because they don't have enough money to put in extra insulation or to pay for a heat pump. At the same time, the VVD has doubts about plans to pay for subsidies on electric cars by raising petrol and diesel prices considerably, the paper said. However, the four coalition parties have reached agreement on closing the coal fired power station in Amsterdam within 18 months, five years earlier than planned, the paper said. Green groups Last week, the Volkskrant said the four environmental organisations involved in the government-instigated talks on combating climate change are threatening not to sign the final agreements. They say the agreements reached so far will not achieve the government’s target of cutting CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030, the green groups say. ‘If this is the final deal, then we will not sign,’ the paper quotes Greenpeace director Joris Thijssen as saying. Some 300 organisations and private individuals are involved in the five separate think-tanks looking at ways to stop climate change and cut carbon dioxide emissions. They cover mobility, electricity, industry, agriculture and the built environment.  More >

Dutch yellow jacket protests

Some 600 people took part in 'yellow jacket' demonstrations in several Dutch cities this weekend, as politicians, including the prime minister said they had some sympathy for the cause. In Amsterdam, local broadcaster At5 said around 70 demonstrators showed up at city hall for a protest, which involved walking round the building singing the song '15 miljoen mensen'. Other estimates put the crowd in Amsterdam at 200. In Maastricht, between 150 and 200 people held a march and handed out leaflets saying 'let us battle together for the future of our grandchildren'. A similar number gathered at the Erasmus bridge in central Rotterdam. There were also demonstrations by 'several dozen' people in The Hague, Arnhem and Eindhoven, Dutch media reported. On Friday, prime minister Mark Rutte said in his weekly broadcast on public television that 'everyone is wearing a yellow jacket, up to a certain point', while at the same time condemning the violence in France. Rutte said he could understand that people in the Netherlands had concerns about migration and refugees, about the consequences of climate change and about income. Politicians have to answer all these questions, the prime minister said. 'If I was not a politician I would be writing angry letters to the papers,' he said. 'I can do a bit more [as prime minister] but there is limited money, and so limits to what can be done.' Money Christian Democrat party leader Sybrand Buma told current affair show Buitenhof that politicians in the Netherlands should be taking action on behalf of people who find themselves short of money at the end of the month. Socialist party leader Lilian Marijnissen said that the Dutch yellow jackets are people who 'are demanding their fair share'. 'This cabinet has promised that everyone will have more to spend,' she said. 'But an awful lot of people don't notice it, while their health insurance, energy bills and rents are going up.'  More >

Top three keep up the pace in Eredivisie

Eredivisie logo PSV Eindhoven returned to winning ways in the Eredivisie with a 6-0 thrashing of Excelsior as the top three all notched up comfortable victories. Luuk de Jong scored the first and last goals of the game to take his personal tally to 14, while Excelsior added to their woes with two own goals to add to strikes by Donyell Malen and Steven Bergwijn. Ajax's week was dominated by speculation about the future of midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been linked to a €75 million move to Paris Saint Germain at the end of the season. Other clubs rumoured to be in the hunt for the 21-year-old include Barcelona and Manchester City. On the pitch, De Jong underlined his value to the team by scoring the second goal in a 4-1 win at PEC Zwolle that keeps Ajax two points behind PSV. Feyenoord, Utrecht win After cutting their deficit at the top to seven points in midweek, Feyenoord also booked a 4-1 victory over Emmen, which included a debut goal for 17-year-old substitute Orkan Kökcu. It was an eventful match for Steven Berghuis, who scored a goal, missed a penalty, and played a key part in the opening goal when his shot was deflected in off the thigh of Jan-Arie van der Heijden. FC Utrecht are up to fourth following a 3-1 dismantling of close rivals Heracles. A penalty from Simon Gustafson and two thumping strikes by Gyrano Kerk and Urby Emanuelson in the first 20 minutes sealed the points for Dick Advocaat's side. NAC Breda's late 2-1 victory against Vitesse Arnhem lifted them off the bottom of the table, to be replaced by De Graafschap, who drew 0-0 at ADO Den Haag. Groningen lifted themselves out of the bottom three with a scoreless draw at VVV Venlo. Groningen, Zwolle and Emmen all have 14 points, while above them are four teams locked on 16, including Fortuna Sittard and Willem II, who suffered heavy home defeats to AZ Alkmaar and Heerenveen respectively. Results Friday Fortuna Sittard 0-3 AZ Alkmaar PSV Eindhoven 6-0 Excelsior Saturday ADO Den Haag 0-0 De Graafschap PEC Zwolle 1-4 Ajax Willem II Tilburg 1-5 Heerenveen Sunday Emmen 1-4 Feyenoord NAC Breda 2-1 Vitesse Arnhem Utrecht 3-1 Heracles Almelo VVV Venlo 0-0 Groningen  More >

City birds need breeding places: CBS

Garden bird populations in cities are struggling but are doing better in the countryside, national statistics office CBS and bird monitoring organisation Sovon Vogelonderzoek have found. Populations of 13 out of 20 species which have traditionally made the city their home, such as the sparrow, jackdaw and blackbird have been falling since 1990, the figures show.  However, blue tits, house martins, great tits, green finches, goldfinches and song thrushes are increasing in number outside the urban areas. ‘Once upon a time humans took over the birds’ territory and initially some species adapted to that very well. But cities are becoming a less accommodating environment for birds,’ Sovon researcher Albert de Jong told the Volkskrant. ‘The falling number in garden birds in cities and the increase in the countryside are two separate processes,' De Jong said. 'Many birds have a very territories. The sparrow, for instance, spends his whole life within a range of one kilometre from where he was born.’ The reasons for the dwindling populations are fewer eggs, fewer chicks reaching maturity and lower life expectancy. Among the possible causes are changes to building methods. ‘ A starling or a sparrow could make its nest under a roof tile but with better insulation those days are gone,’ the Volkskrant quotes CBS researcher Cor Pierik as saying. Shrubberies Another reason for the dwindling garden bird numbers is that cities are increasingly built up. There is a lack of open areas in cities for birds to feed and gardens are paved or grass put in instead of shrubberies. ‘It may be maintenance poor but it is not a good environment for birds such as the tailed tit and the dunnock, which like to breed in thick undergrowth,’ De Jong told the paper. Possible solutions to the problem include provisions for birds in new builds, such as a ‘sparrow hotel’, i.e. a row of nesting boxes attached to the façade, and ‘fly in holes’ for swifts.  More >

Postdoc conned by fake ministry official

An international researcher at Groningen University has been conned out of nearly €3,000 by someone posing as an employee of foreign affairs ministry, the Northern Times reported on Friday. Manas Das, a postdoc from India working at the faculty of science and engineering, was threatened with deportation by someone claiming that his paperwork was not in order. 'I took out all my money because I thought it was a threat to my family. I’m living here with a small kid and my wife,' he told the website. He was told to hand over the money in the form of gift cards for Steam, an online gaming platform. Das told the website he has an appointment with the Groningen police on Monday to file a formal complaint. He said he had decided to go public about the con in an effort to stop other people falling into the same trap. Similar scams involving phone numbers mirroring legitimate Dutch government agencies have been reported by foreign professionals across the Netherlands over the past year. Have you received one of these calls? Please get in touch via in strictest confidence.   More >