The National ombudsman criticises DUO’s poor communication. The organisation should call students personally to ensure that they manage their debt.

According to a report published on Tuesday, half of current and former students who are in arrears come into contact with a bailiff. They are unaware that there is a problem with repaying their student loan or they have failed to cancel their public transport card on time.

Too formal

Students have to cancel their card themselves. Every year, 60,000 students do this too late, which generates a fine of 150 euros a month. Last December, the Lower House requested DUO to improve their communication.

The National ombudsman calls DUO’s current system ‘illogical’ and ‘in itself a source of debt’. The organisation and students don’t understand each other: their language is too official and emails are lost.

This is not the first time the ombudsman has reprimanded DUO. In 2012 DUO was instructed to write ‘better letters’: the tone was too formal and messages were not clear enough.

Personal contact

But little seems to have improved. The ombudsman is therefore recommending that DUO contacts students personally more often. This would make it clearer whether summonses have reached students and enable them to explain the consequences of their late payments.

In the report, the Ombudsman also advises students. Make sure that DUO has your phone number and update your email address. And above all: cancel your public transport card immediately after graduating or finishing your studies.

Black list

Jeroen Wienen from the Netherlands Student Organisation (ISO) feels it’s ‘incredible’ that it isn’t possible to automatically cancel the card. In previous statements, a spokesperson from DUO said that it wasn’t that simple: due to privacy legislation, it’s difficult to create another procedure.

But experts disagreed. Put forgetful students on a black list, they advised, so that the barriers don’t open when they try to check in.