A former student was fined 225 euros for not ending his student travel product on time. He went to court and was partially vindicated. The judge reduced the fine to 75 euros because DUO did not warn the student quickly enough.  This ruling in May 2022 recently came online.

It could have hefty consequences: students may have wrongly received extra fines for years. The case is still ongoing, as study funding agency DUO – or rather the ministry of Education – has appealed.

Millions in fines

Every year, (former) students pay millions of euros in public transport fines to DUO. The record is 52.6 million euros in 2014, after which the House of Commons somewhat intervened. For example, students are no longer fined if they have not used the card.

Yet in 2022, the fines still amounted to 6.7 million euros. Despite promises, public transport companies have not yet made automatic stopping possible.

So the former student in this court case also ran into a fine. He had made a mistake. In the Covid crisis, students were entitled to their public transport student card for longer, but only while they were still studying. He had misunderstood the latter, so after graduating per September 2020, he did not immediately remove his student travel product from his public transport chip card.

A fine was appropriate, the court ruled. The only question is: how high can that fine be?

Not properly warned

According to the former student, he was not properly warned about the penalty. He travelled with the student card in the second half of September and in the second half of October. DUO warned only afterwards that he was no longer entitled to a student travel product, after which the student stopped using the card.

The fine followed in December. The fine amounts were (at the time) 75 euros per half month in the first month and double from the second month onwards. Those not travelling did not have to pay anything. So in this case two fines were imposed: 75 euros plus 150 euros.

That second fine of 150 euros was removed by the court. DUO did not give the student a chance to end his card in time after a warning, was the verdict. The appeal was therefore upheld.


If this ruling is upheld in the appeal, there will be consequences. DUO will have to notify students of potential fines earlier, otherwise the organisation will not be allowed to impose them.

“Whether this is the only student where we made mistakes is unknown”, a spokesperson from DUO commented. “We cannot rule out that the same thing has happened to others.”

Plenty of warnings

DUO has not yet changed its policy and believes it has issued plenty of warnings. “First of all, we warn in advance,” says a spokesperson. “The information is on our site and in MijnDUO, for example, and we deploy our socials especially just before the summer for campaigns and the like. Students are also notified in advance.”

Moreover, according to DUO, students receive a message every time they travel with the card and when a fine has been imposed, ‘with clear explanations each time that the fine goes up in case of repeated use and how to avoid this’.

How soon do these warnings come? The public transport companies report about the trips of students once a month. In such a month, they can already face two fines. The judge seems to disagree with that practice.

DUO should issue warnings faster, responds chair Demi Janssen of student organisation ISO. “But as far as we are concerned, the real solution is that the student travel product is automatically stopped by DUO when a student is no longer entitled to it. This would avoid unnecessary fines.”

Rotterdam CS

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