Telephone and internet: more rights for consumers.

President Homann reflects on the results: “More protection and transparency for consumers”

From 1 December 2021, telephone, internet and mobile communications contracts contain new rights for consumers. The most important changes include shorter notice periods for automatically renewed contracts, the right to a price reduction for non-delivery of broadband services, and compensation payments for telephone and internet outages and appointments missed by technicians.

“The new regulations mean more transparency and better protection for consumers,” says Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency. “Our customer protection department is there to inform customers about their new rights. In the event of a dispute with the provider, our dispute resolution agency attempts to arrive at a solution acceptable to both parties.”

In principle, the new telecommunication law also applies to contracts concluded before 1 December 2021.

The most important changes

Contract duration and rollover

The maximum duration of a telephone or internet contract continues to be 24 months. However, if consumers miss the notice period and the contract is automatically renewed, they are able to give a month’s notice at any time. Whereas contracts used to be silently renewed, providers are now required to notify customers.

Contract summary

Before a telephone or internet contract can be concluded, the provider must present consumers with a concise and easily understandable summary of the most important terms of the contract. This includes, among others, the services, price, duration and notice period. This will enable customers to compare package offerings and be aware of the services included in their contracts.

In particular, consumers are protected against contracts concluded over the telephone. A contract does not come into effect until customers receive a contract summary following the telephone call and a text version of the contract has been signed by them. An e-mail suffices here.

New rights in the event of a fault

If consumers are left without a telephone or internet connection or mobile reception, it is their legal right to have the fault fixed as quickly as possible and free of charge.

If the provider is unable to rectify the fault within one day after it has been reported, the customer must be informed the following day at the latest. The provider must specify which measures have been initiated and when the fault is likely to be rectified.

Consumers can claim compensation from the following day onwards if the provider is unable to rectify the fault within two calendar days and the fault is not due to unforeseeable circumstances beyond control. Compensation can also be claimed if the provider misses an arranged appointment for maintenance or installation.

Changing provider, porting a number or moving premises

If when changing provider, moving premises or porting a number, telephone or internet services are out of action for more than one working day, customers can also claim compensation if they have not agreed to and are not responsible for the delay.

They can also claim if the provider misses an arranged appointment for maintenance or installation.
Customers can no longer be charged for switching their number to a new provider.

Right to price reduction for slow internet access

If the internet access service is below that set out in the contract, customers can in future reduce the monthly payment to their provider or terminate the contract without notice.

Prerequisite here is a significant, continuous or regularly recurring discrepancy between actual performance and the speed agreed in the contract.

A decree of general application issued by the Federal Network Agency on 8 December 2021 specifies when such a discrepancy in the fixed network justifies a price reduction or termination of contract without notice. The Federal Network Agency has also issued a brochure with specific guidelines on how to gather proof of such discrepancies.

On the day the decree of general application comes into effect on 13 December 2021, the Federal Network Agency is also releasing an updated version of the Broadband measurement desktop app as a monitoring mechanism. From this day on, consumers can use the new app to justify their claim to a price reduction from their provider or to terminate their contract without notice in line with the regulations laid down in the new German Telecommunications Act.

The Federal Network Agency is planning to issue guidelines in 2022 for mobile broadband which contain a clear definition of reduced performance and provide a monitoring mechanism for gathering proof.
Right to access to telecommunication services

Customers have a right to access telecommunication services

This includes a basic telephony package and high-speed internet access services for economic and social participation. The specific broadband speed values are stipulated in a separate guideline and are annually verified by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. At the time of writing, studies are being consulted in order to ascertain these values. The guideline is expected to be available from June 2022 onwards.

More detailed information, subsequent amendments and the levels of compensation payments can be found on the Federal Network Agency’s consumer portal: www.bundesnetzagentur.de/kundenschutz-aktuell

Should you have any questions, the customer protection department will be pleased to assist you. In the event of a dispute with the provider, customers can request a dispute resolution procedure at the Federal Network Agency’s dispute resolution agency. The Federal Network Agency’s dispute resolution agency will endeavour to find a solution acceptable to both the customer and the provider.