Cell phone and internet price increases: how to defend yourself

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GRound-off fee, data volume, call minutes, short messages – a mobile phone contract regulates exactly what the customer has to pay. If a price increase suddenly flutters into the house, it does not have to be simply accepted. In principle, closed contracts must be adhered to, says Felix Flosbach from the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

If customers and providers have agreed on a price and if this is the subject of the contract, “deviations from it can only be made within very narrow limits,” said the expert. For example, when there are effective clauses to adjust prices.

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But even these must not be taken at will, so lawyer Dr. Matthias Böse from Neuss. “The corresponding clause would have to specify the reasons and the scope of the price increase in advance.” Such a regulation must therefore be made when the contract is concluded.

So far no special right of termination

Old contracts with ineffective adjustment clauses therefore do not allow tacit adjustment. This also applies to unilateral adjustments that have already been made in the past, said the lawyer.

If the telecommunications provider announces new prices, the contract cannot be terminated automatically. Because there is no so-called special right of termination, says Böse. The customer should insist on the agreed conditions here.

If he does not react to the announced adjustment, he runs the risk that the provider will interpret the silence as consent. “Such a fictitious consent can be agreed in the terms and conditions. Whether this is then also compatible with the legal regulations and to what extent is legally controversial, ”says consumer advocate Flosbach.

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Far-reaching BGH judgment

In the case of a bank, the BGH declared such a clause to be ineffective. The provider therefore needs the customer’s consent if the adjustment clause is missing or ineffective.

If he does not agree, “he only has to cancel the contract himself,” says Böse. However, the agreed contract period must be met.

New telecommunications law aims to empower consumers

Consumers will probably come into such situations less often in the future. Because from December 1, 2021, customers should be better protected against unilateral price adjustments by the new Telecommunications Act. Among other things, this provides for a right of termination without notice, for example if changes are not exclusively for the benefit of the customer or are purely administrative.

In any case, the announcement of a price change at the latest is a good time to take a look at the tariff market. Older internet tariffs, for example, are usually more expensive and slower than new ones.

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“This is also because the major Internet providers try to outdo each other with discounts for new customers – often to the detriment of loyal regular customers,” says Arne Düsterhöft from Finanztip. From the third year of the contract at the latest, existing customers would therefore often pay significantly more than new customers.

If you want to change providers, you can sometimes leave the termination of an Internet and landline contract to the new provider. Because: If the providers regulate this among themselves, the old provider must continue to supply the customer until the new line is up and running.

“The switchover must then not take longer than a day,” says Alexander Kuch from Teltarif.

Cell phone contract or do you prefer pre-paid?

It looks different with cell phone contracts. Here the customer should take the notice of termination into their own hands – and above all pay attention to the often long notice periods of up to three months.

In the case of mobile phone contracts, the question also arises whether a term contract makes sense at all. “With a prepaid tariff, you remain the most flexible and you also have greater control over telephone costs,” says Düsterhöft. This makes prepaid tariffs particularly suitable for children and occasional users.

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If you use your cell phone or smartphone regularly, you would probably be better off with a two-year term contract. This also applies to those who like to own the latest smartphone.

“Subsidized cell phones are usually only available with a contract term of 24 months, and in some cases new technologies are initially only activated for contract customers,” says consumer advocate Flosbach.

Compare many mobile phone tariffs to save money

It is therefore always a matter of weighing up whether the freedom to terminate at any time is more important than the possible advantages of a term contract. It is clear, however: The contractual conditions and thus also the tariff remain basically unchanged over the entire term, according to Düsterhöft.

To get a good overview of the many different tariffs for mobile communications and the Internet, he recommends searching on comparison portals. “The comparison calculators also often offer an additional portal bonus, which makes the tariffs cheaper than those offered by the providers themselves.”

If you are basically satisfied with your tariff, but find it too expensive, you should negotiate a discount with your provider, advises Düsterhöft. “Most of the time, a quick call to the customer hotline is enough.”

Notice periods and expensive contracts – these are the new rules

Contracts for cell phones or fitness studios usually have very long terms and very long notice periods. The Federal Minister of Justice now wants to protect consumers from this by law.

Source: WORLD / Matthias Heinrich

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