The municipality of Amsterdam may not exclude students as a group from receiving the one-time energy allowance. This was ruled by the Amsterdam court on Tuesday. The exclusion, according to the judge, leads to 'unequal treatment of comparable cases', which is against the law.
Volkskrant, Maarten Albers, 14 februari 2023
The municipality of Amsterdam may not exclude students as a group from receiving the one-time energy allowance, according to the ruling by the Amsterdam court on Tuesday. The exclusion, according to the judge, leads to ‘unequal treatment of comparable cases’, which is against the law.
The one-time energy allowance of 1,300 euros per household was introduced by the government last summer due to rising energy costs. Minister for Poverty Policy Carola Schouten stipulated in a policy rule that students are not eligible because their living situations differ too much. However, many students are also affected by the increased costs of gas and electricity, and in five cities, they went to court to get their energy allowance.
In one of the court cases, the Amsterdam court ruled on Tuesday. The municipality of Amsterdam argued that students as a group are not comparable to people with a minimum income, for whom the allowance is intended.
In the ruling, the judge points out that not only people with minimum income can receive the allowance. Young starters with an income just above the minimum wage are also eligible. ‘There are students who, in terms of their income and living situation, are in exactly the same situation as this group,’ the judge said. Therefore, there is ‘unequal treatment of comparable cases.’
The municipality of Amsterdam has also not explained well why this distinction between students and non-students is necessary. It cannot be that students would receive too much money because they must also meet other requirements for the energy allowance, such as a maximum income. The municipality refers students to individual special assistance, but that is not a reasonable alternative, according to the judge. Different, stricter conditions apply to that scheme.
Robin Bosch of the Legal Advice Wanted (LAW) legal advice bureau, which represented the students, is pleased with the ruling. ‘The court has granted everything we requested.’ Bosch sees the ruling as a clear indication for Amsterdam to disregard the policy rule and give students their energy allowance. The municipality could not respond substantively on Tuesday afternoon and is considering next steps.
The ruling of the court does not come entirely unexpected. In August last year, the Arnhem court reached the same conclusion in a similar case. For the energy allowance for 2023, Minister Schouten now wants to legally establish the exclusion of students, but the Council of State recently questioned the justification for that.
LAW claims to represent more than ten thousand students who want to claim the energy allowance and has filed about a hundred lawsuits on their behalf throughout the country to achieve this. ‘We expect that other judges will come to the same conclusion as in Amsterdam,’ says Bosch.
In the capital, student union Asva represents another 450 students who want to receive energy allowance. Chair Aziza Filal therefore sees the ruling as hopeful. ‘But the judge does not change the fact that the student loan counts towards the determination of income. We hope that a subsequent ruling will change that.’