On 18 November 2013, the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) imposed an administrative fine of €300,000 on Ferratum Netherlands B.V. The fine was imposed because Ferratum offered pay day loans in the period of 25 May 2011 to 11 December 2012 without holding the required licence. That constitutes an infringement of the Financial Supervision Act (Section 2:60, first subsection, Wft).
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Consumers were able to take out loans quickly and at high cost via the Ferratum websites www.ferratum.nl and www.saldodipje.nl. Ferratum advertised that no costs were charged for the loan. In actual fact, consumers had to pay very high costs indeed.
Guarantee and default charges
Ferratum demanded a guarantee in order for consumers to qualify for a loan. Consumers could only receive a loan quickly and easily if they opted for a paid guarantee from Global Guarantee, which is a party affiliated with Ferratum. In the case of a loan of €100 the costs amounted to €19 for a period of 15 days, which translates into €462.33 (462.33%) on an annual basis. In addition, consumer had to pay high default charges if the loan was not paid back on time.
It has been illegal since 25 May 2011 to offer pay day loans without an AFM licence. The AFM is of the opinion that Ferratum is not exempted from this obligation to hold a licence.
It concerns a serious infringement. Ferratum earned considerable sums of money by offering short-term loans. Ferratum deliberately attempted to circumvent legislation and regulations intended to protect consumers so that it could continue to charge high costs to the consumers.
In addition, Ferratum took advantage of a group of vulnerable consumers who were unable to take out a more favourable loan in a regular manner, for example by being overdrawn on their payment account or by using a credit card. These consumers then ran the risk of becoming increasingly further buried in debt.
Providers of pay day loans require a licence if they charge more than minor costs. If that is the case they are not allowed to charge rates that exceed the maximum statutory interest rate of 15%.
A licence provides additional protection to consumers. Before the AFM grants a licence, it checks, inter alia, whether a company complies with the requirements of properness, expertise and integrity. Moreover, a company that holds a licence must comply with the so-called continuous rules of conduct. These rules concern, among other things, the obligation to take great care in the provision of services to consumers.
Amount of the fine
A basic amount of €2,000,000 applies for this type of infringement. The basic amount can be increased or decreased if the seriousness or duration of the infringement or the degree of culpability give reason to do so. In the present case, the AFM considers it appropriate to increase the basic amount by 25% on the basis of the seriousness of the infringement and to increase it by 25% on the basis of culpability.
When determining the amount of the fine, the AFM takes into account the financial capacity of the offender. In the present case, the financial capacity of Ferratum is reason to set the fine at €300,000.
Interested parties can submit the AFM's judgment contained in the decision to the courts for review. If you have questions or complaints, please contact the AFM's Financial Markets Information Line: 0800-5400 540 (free of charge).
The AFM is committed to promoting fair and transparent financial markets.
As an independent market conduct authority, we contribute to a sustainable financial system and prosperity in the Netherlands.