Questions to the Chamber of Commerce Regarding: Online Access Fees for the Trade Registry & Past Charges

According to article 19 of the Handelsregisterbesluit AB 1989 no. GT 87 and its subsequent amendments) (“Decree”), the specific fees mentioned pertain to the issuance of certified copies, extracts, and certain declarations. These fees are outlined as follows:

  • Afl. 15 per extract from the Trade Register
  • Afl. 3 per page for photographic reproductions.
  • Afl. 0.50 for certain written declarations.

No mention is made of fees related to accessing the trade registry online or any annual subscriptions for such access. The Chamber charges various different fees for various products it offers. The Decree makes no mention of these fees. The question that arises is if the legislator explicitly determined the prices for  the 3 products mentioned, why would it not have mentioned all the other charges applied by the Chamber, over the years. My legal reasoning would be that any charge levied by the Chamber without a mention in the Decree lacks legal basis, therefore is being charged and paid unjustly. If my reasoning is right then anyone that paid  for charges not covered by the legislation was wrongfully paid and the payer has a right to claim back those monies. Otherwise why would the Decree only mention three price items and no provision for the Chamber to unilaterally charge arbitrary fees?

The website of the Chamber now contains the following notice:

As of March 27, 2024, viewing of the digital registry will be a paid feature. Therefore, you will no longer have free access to view the digital registry.

There is no mention of a(ny) new regulation e.g. change of the Handelsregisterbesluit AB 1989 no. GT 87, to provide a legal basis for the denial of free access and the levying of a charge to the users for the access. In the press release issued by the Chamber, there is no mention of any new regulation or the legal basis used for the actions taken by the Chamber.

This raises the following questions:

  1. Is there a new regulation that enables the Chamber to place the notice on the website?
  2. Under what legal authority does the Chamber of Commerce  impose an annual fee for online access to the trade registry?
  3. Can the Chamber provide the specific legal provisions or regulations that justify this fee.
  4. How does the Chamber ensure transparency regarding the imposition of these fees? 
  5. Are there publicly accessible documents or announcements that explain the rationale behind these charges?
  6. Does the imposition of an annual fee for online access align with the principles of open access to public records? 
  7. How does the chamber address concerns that such fees may limit access for some users?
  8. How was the yearly fee of Afl. 1,200 determined?
  9. What is the legal basis for charging more than Afl. 15 for extracts for example in English, if this is not provided in the legislation? 
  10. If there is no legal basis what is the procedure of the users who have paid more than Afl. 15.00 to get a refund?

A clear explanation addressing these points would be greatly appreciated to understand the legal and practical justifications for the current fee structure for accessing the online trade registry and potentially any fees collected without an adequate legal basis.

On a side note the content under the tab “legislation” is severely outdated, up until close of business on May 28th, 2024 at least nine (9) legislative items are outdated since September 1st, 2021. The Civil Code has replaced  those 9 laws. It will be almost 3 years of the incorrect and outdated information shared by the Chamber with the public. Oversight or not, the Chamber is held to a higher standard. I did mention this again to the board of the Chamber yesterday. Last time I mentioned this to the Chamber was about 3 years ago and no action was taken or it was overlooked. 

Chamber a/o Minister of Economic Affairs: “What sayeth you?”

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