Internet and phone contracts in Germany are now easier to cancel
Plenty of people in Germany have experienced the frustration of an automatically-extending contract that locks them in for months, if not years, with a plan they don’t want. Thankfully, a major law change has now made inflexible contract renewals a thing of the past.
What’s changing with internet and phone contracts in Germany?
As of December 1, 2021, an amendment to Germany’s Telecommunications Act came into effect. Among other things, the change significantly strengthens the rights of consumers when concluding new contracts for internet, fixed telephone lines, and mobile phones.
The major change is that customers will no longer be locked into lengthy contracts if their original contract renews. Previously, if you failed to cancel within the minimum notice period (which was often as much as three months), your provider was able to renew your contract, without your permission, for another 12 or even 24 months, often at a higher rate.
From now on, anyone who doesn’t cancel in time will be put on a one-month rolling contract, meaning you can cancel at any time by giving one month’s notice.
Long contracts still the norm
While the one-month notice period is definitely an improvement, note that it only applies to renewed contracts. Most new contracts will continue to be lengthy - 24 months is pretty much standard in Germany. You will be locked in for at least this long, unless you are able to find a more flexible contract.
After the 24 months is up (or however long your initial term was) is when the change kicks in. Your phone company can no longer automatically sign you up for another 24 months if you don’t cancel in time.
Contracts must be agreed in writing
The other headline change brought about by the amendment concerns how contracts are agreed. In future, it will not be possible for contracts to be concluded only over the phone. After an initial phone conversation, your provider is required to send you a summary of the key contract information, including:
- Service provider’s contact details
- Description of the agreed services
- Details of any initial setup fees
- Conditions for renewals
- Termination notice period
You will then need to confirm the contract in writing for it to become legally valid. This change is to prevent people from agreeing to things over the phone without really understanding what they’re signing up for.
Details of better tariffs
Another important change is that providers must now write to their customers, at least once a year, to inform them if better deals are available - and if they can switch to a new contract. Again, this can’t happen solely over the phone.
Do all of these changes apply to me?
These changes apply to all customers in Germany, regardless of whether you’re signing up to a new contract after December 1 or have a contract that predates the change.
The only slightly grey area is if your contract has already been auto-renewed and you’ve been locked into a new tariff for an additional 12 or 24 months. In this case, it’s a good idea to contact your provider and see if the law change affects your contract.