Pijpers opened legal proceedings to get a refund for the €200 booking fee he was charged when he got a room in the Lucia building. He won his case and has by now had the money refunded. According to Square Rent, all students who have lived in the building are entitled to sue the landlord, and they are very likely to have the judge decide in their favour.
The owner of the Lucia complex, which is situated in Stadhuisplein and where 218 first-year students attending the EUC are required to live, is the Vienna-based Raiffeisen Bank. The dispute between Pijpers and the bank concerned a so-called ‘booking fee’, which Raiffeisen says covers the costs of the assistance it gives students in applying for housing benefit and of the facilitation of a ‘key buddy’, a digital key that can be shared easily. The judge found that the fee charged bore no relation to the actual costs incurred by the bank. The judge said that the reasonable charge would have been €7.72 – a far cry from the €200 the landlord actually charged. The landlord has by now refunded the booking fee to Pijpers, less the ‘reasonable’ charge of €7.72.
Raiffeisen Bank does not accept the judge’s court order and will appeal to a higher court. According to the bank’s spokesperson, Andrea Pelinka-Kinz, the fee charged can in fact be justified. She said she preferred not to give a more in-depth response until after the judge has ruled on the appeal (22 April).
Vaneveld believes that Raiffeisen Bank is unlikely to have the judge of the higher court find in its favour. “There is next to no chance that the appeal will be successful. The fee charged by the company cannot be justified.” For this reason, the legal expert wishes to encourage all EUC students to open legal proceedings of their own. “Thanks to the Pijpers case, there will be a precedent. By which I mean that all EUC students who live and have lived in the Lucia building were charged an unjust fee and are eligible for a refund if they challenge the amount of the fee.”
So will the landlord refrain from charging the unjust booking fee of its own accord from now on? Vaneveld thinks this is unlikely in the short term. “Raiffeisen will perform a cost-benefit analysis. Once more students start opening legal proceedings, it will be increasingly costly for them to both refund the amount and bear the legal fees. That is the moment when it will become cheaper for them to abolish the fee. So it’s up to students themselves. The more students try to get a refund, the more likely the fee is to be abolished for ever.”
Although first-year EUC students are required by the university to live together in the Lucia building, Erasmus University’s spokesperson Rateb Abawi says the matter should be resolved between the students and their landlord. However, Abawi did say that the university is in talks with Raiffeisen to discuss the judge’s ruling.