December 22, 2016

World premiere: donating to the homeless electronically

Filed under: Dutch first,Technology by Orangemaster @ 1:59 pm

As of this holiday season people in Amsterdam will be able to give money to homeless people using their bank card and its contactless payment function. It’s an experiment that is making headlines, thought up by Amsterdam advertising agency N=5 and developed together with the ABN Amro bank.

The homeless will be wearing a special jacket with a bank card reader, allowing people to donate one euro that will be used to provide either food, a shower or a place to sleep to the homeless person in question. The accounts will be managed by the cooperating homeless shelters. The idea is to avoid seeing the money spent on alcohol and the likes, something that stops many people from giving. Once someone has donated, they will get a thank you from the homeless person on their bank account statement.

According to newspaper Het Parool, over the past years the homeless population in the Netherlands has more than doubled from 2009 to 2016, from 13,000 to 31,000 people.


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November 25, 2016

Boycott against ING over Dakota pipeline rallies Dutch Facebook users

Filed under: Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 1:19 pm

ing-boycott-facebookOver the past few days, stuck among the daily river of memes, one stood out because friends were making a commitment: they were going to cancel their account with Dutch consumer bank ING over the bank’s investments in the controversial Dakota pipeline.

Frances Ro started talking to ING on their Facebook page and made a very simple demand: “Show me that you’re on the right side of history. Prove that you won’t let large interests stand in the way of a livable planet. Let’s say that we’ll find a solution before 1 January. If not, I’ll be your ex-customer from that day on.”

Ro’s problems with ING’s investment are that the Dakota pipeline allegedly endangers the drinking water of millions of people and destroys territory that is culturally significant to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. According to her, ING has invested 250 million USD in the project.

ING ummed and ahed in response, suggesting they were hoping the controversy would go away by itself: “We have confidence in the proper administration of justice and the careful consideration of the case by the US government.”

The bank seems to have found itself in a perfect storm. Together with ABN Amro and Rabobank it is one of the big three consumer banks in the Netherlands. Lately, savings banks like ASN and Triodos (who claim to only invest in sustainable projects) have branched out into the payment business and new banks like Knab (owned by insurer Aegon) have also been nipping at their feet. Consumers have stayed loyal so far to to the banks that lured them in during their childhood, until now they’ve found a reason to switch to more modern banks. The joint banks even have a service that should make switching banks as easy as possible.

So far Ro’s plea got shared well over a 1,000 times, with several people reporting they’ve already abandoned ING.

(Illustration: screenshot of Ro’s Facebook post)

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April 7, 2014

Two billion euro in gold? Nah, keep it!

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:47 pm

gold-bars-sprott-moneyDutchnews wrote yesterday: “The Netherlands has no plans to try to recover 60,000 kilos of Dutch gold stolen by the Nazis during WWII and sold on to Switzerland, finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has told MPs.” Parliamentarians had been asking questions—it turns out the government had already decided not to ask the Swiss for the stolen gold in 2000.

An interesting story, but perhaps even more interesting is the question: does the Federal Reserve in New York still hold fifty percent of the Dutch gold reserve? According to Wikipedia the Netherlands is the country with the tenth biggest national gold reserve (654 tonnes), but half of that reserve is supposed to be in New York. When the Germans asked in 2012 whether they could come over and count their gold, they were told “no”. Germany then told the Federal Reserve it wanted some of its money back, to which the bank said it could take a while.

The American attitude has sparked rumours that the Federal Reserve has stolen the gold that a number of foreign nations have entrusted to it and is now scrambling to buy it back so that it can be returned to its owners.

(Photo by Sprott Money, some rights reserved)

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January 13, 2014

Dutch housing prices are historically high

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:35 pm

The Economist has been keeping track of the development of house prices for a while now and this recent graph neatly shows the house price bubble the world is slowly getting out of.

What may surprise you to know is that the Netherlands, typically known as an economically stable country, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to driving up prices to insanity level 11. What is worse, is that unlike most of the world’s nations, the country will see only little decrease of house prices in the near future.

Hendrik Oude Nijhuis looks even further back than The Economist in an article for Z24. He points out that in the past 400 years, house prices in the Netherlands have always followed inflation. Sometimes they rose more quickly than inflation would dictate and sometimes they would lag behind inflation, but they would always go back to a happy medium. Houses in the Netherlands are now 75% more expensive than the historic average, which is a record.

House prices have been decreasing slowly since 2008, but as you can see in the first chart, the process is slow. One giant brake on the current housing market is that the current generation of first-time homeowners is in a bad fix. On the one hand, these young house owners got in when the prices soared, meaning they bought expensive houses, and on the other, they took out mortgage loans that they are not paying off. The result is what Oude Nijhuis calls ‘submarine mortgages’, loans where the collateral is worth way less than the amount owed. This generation (Oude Nijhuis says there are 1.7 million of these submarine loans against 4.3 million privately owned houses) is unable to move on even if it wanted to. Home owners cannot afford new houses and yet if they buy one, they will take a loss on the old one.

Add to this toxic mix the fact that politicians don’t want to be seen touching interest deductions and you have the recipe for an unhealthy housing market for years to come.

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December 9, 2013

Dutch banks invent rules to escape phishing damage claims

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:22 pm

Two weeks ago Emerce reported that the major Dutch banks had streamlined their terms and conditions with regards to theft resulting from phishing.

The new terms and conditions, which will come into effect on 1 January 2014, set out five conditions phishing victims must meet to be able to claim damages from their bank. Customers must:

  • Never give their passwords to anyone.
  • Never let others use their bank card.
  • Adequately protect the equipment they use for electronic banking (i.e. install virus scanners and so on).
  • Regularly check their bank statements.
  • Report incidents right away.

Financial news site Z24 believes that these new rules are bad news for bank customers—they will have to pay for the damages of phishing attacks themselves in a greater number of cases. The site quotes Jurgen Braspenning of Tilburg University who accuses some consumers of being lazy and careless. “It would seem that extremely unfair or dubious cases may still count on the kindness of banks in the future.”

A spokesperson for the Nederlandse Vereniging van Banken (Dutch association of banks) tries to downplay the effects of the new rules: “it is not our intention to make customers more often responsible for the costs and we don’t expect them to be.” According to Z24 the burden of proof is always with the bank.

See also: Dutch banks won’t employ anti-skimming hook.

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July 14, 2013

Companies rank Dutch banks as barely sufficient

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:16 pm

One in three Dutch companies wants to break up with its bank, but only one in six thinks this is possible, Z24 reports.

The business news site commissioned a study by DVJ Insights to find out how over 500 entrepreneurs feel about their banks. Most Dutch businesses manage their finances through either Rabobank, ABN Amro or ING, which control about 88% of the market. Of the other banks, German Deutsche Bank is the biggest, or rather, the least small. The big three received grades of around 5.7 out of 10 from their clients—the lowest passing grade. Deutsche Bank, which according to Z24 wants to get rid of its Dutch customers, received a 4.

The article doesn’t mention if any of the smaller banks got high grades.

A third of entrepreneurs is considering switching banks, but about half of them think it would be difficult. A reason given is that they also have a private account with the same bank.

One of the reasons businesses are unhappy with their bank is that banks are reluctant to provide loans. In the past two years a third of businesses requested a loan from a bank, but in 64% of the cases these loans were denied.

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August 6, 2012

Bailiffs refuse to do bank’s dirty work in mortgage debt cases

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:59 am

Rabobank has been sued by a bailiff in Utrecht, GGN, because the bank tried to have it collect outstanding mortgage debts without a court order.

Last Friday the court announced it had asked the Dutch Supreme Court for advice.

The case seems to hinge on the fact that the contracts for the actual loans are of a different type than the mortgage contracts. The latter are drafted by a notary, which gives them greater weight. (The Dutch law speaks of ‘onderhandse akte’ and ‘bovenhandse akte’ respectively.)

Normally bailiffs are only allowed to force payment of a debt (by threatening to sell posessions or by actually selling them) with a court order. Apparently the ‘weightier’ type of contract confers the same power. Other bailiffs have also refused to execute Rabobank’s loan contracts. If Rabobank loses, it must secure a court order for every individual debt.

The case revolves only around debts for houses that have both already been sold and that have been sold for less than the market value. Rabobank admitted according to Z24 that this concerns about 100 cases each year.

Rabobank is one of the few major banks on the planet that wasn’t involved in the near-criminal subprime market that caused the global financial and economic crisis we are currently in, but you have to wonder if maybe it felt left out when you read this.

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July 22, 2012

Dutch banks charge top dollar for overdrafts

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 1:57 pm

Financial news site Z24 studied overdraft interest rates of Dutch banks, and came to the conclusion that Dutch banks charge as much as their German counterparts.

Overdraft interest rates are limited by law to 12% plus a variable rate that is currently 3 percentage points. The maximum interest rate for overdrafts currently allowed is therefore 15%.

ING currently charges 14.5%, almost the maximum. Z24 discovered the following rates:

Bank Rate (%)
ING 14.5
ABN Amro 14.1
Rabobank 12.9
ASN Bank* 10.0

When a bank borrows money from the Central European Bank, it only pays an interest rate of 1%.

A German consumer organisation had recently studied overdraft interest rates in its own country and came to the conclusion that with an average rate of 12.1%, German banks overcharged their customers by a lot. Banks defended themselves claiming that there were high costs involved in charging relatively small amounts, and that the chance that customers would not pay back their overdraft is relatively large.

A study by the German government, Süddeutsche Zeiting reported last Thursday, proved that the banks were lying. Overdrafts are a relatively risk-free type of loan for banks, with only 0.3% of the overdrafts leading to payment problems, as compared to 2.5% for other types of loan.

The Dutch financial authority AFM will study the rates that banks charge after January 1, the date on which new banking rules go into effect.

*) ASN Bank is a brand of SNS Bank that originally only offered ethical savings accounts, although recently they have also added current accounts to their services. Although the savings of ASN customers are invested in ethical stock, the profits go to the parent company.

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February 18, 2012

Dutch banks won’t employ anti-skimming hook

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 5:56 pm

Banks like ING, ABN Amro and Rabobank refuse to fit their ATMs with special anti-skimming devices that have proven successful on ticket vending machines, Webwereld reported last Wednesday.

This despite the fact that, according to the same publication, skimming is still very much a problem in the Netherlands. In January the police caught a Romanian gang of skimmers that stole from the bank accounts of thousands of people.

Dutch Rail and Amsterdam’s public transport company GVB claim that since they introduced the so-called anti-skimming hook, their ticket vending machines have no longer been misused by skimmers.

The hook lets you insert your bank or credit card. If skimmers manage to remove the hook, the entire machine shuts down.

ING and Rabobank claim that they employ their own anti-skimming technology, ABN Amro says that it isn’t easy to fit existing machines with the hooks. Bank cards both chips and magnetic strips on them, the latter being susceptible to misuse. Banks have started a campaign to encourage consumers to use the chip rather than the magnetic strip. The latter cannot fully be replaced, as magnetic strips are still required in countries like the USA which have yet to adopt the chip-based technology.

(Photo of an anti-skimming hook discovered during a police raid, by Politie Haaglanden)

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October 17, 2011

Occupy Amsterdam: some impressions

Filed under: General,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

“Give us our money back, dude!”

Following in the footsteps of Occupy Wall Street and other recent big city protests in London, Rome and Brussels, Amsterdam started its ‘occupation’ on Saturday, 15 October with some 1500 people. On Sunday, 16 October, only some die hards in tents were left, with many people visiting and listening to speakers in circles sitting on the ground telling stories about capitalism. There was also food and people singing Bob Dylan songs.

Some Dutch tweeps (Twitter users) were wondering how long the people on the Beursplein (our Wall Street, if you will) would 1) stay camping 2) be allowed by the police to keep camping. By Dutch standards, it’s getting cold outside and today some people will have to go to work at some point.

And yes, it looks more like a student protest, but in all fairness, the slogans were good and very much to the point: banks are totally screwing us. The Dutch have had bank troubles with DSB (bankrupt in 2009), ABN Amro (acquired and broken up by the government in 2009) and ING, although the latter paid its debt back in full, if I am not mistaken. The Belgians had a nasty fight with Fortis (partially Dutch owned at the time) and are now in a crisis with Dexia, partially owned by the French.

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