RTR-GmbH provides information on the particularities of annual base charges (e.g. Internet service charges)
“Recently, we have observed a marked increase in enquiries from sometimes very displeased consumers asking about the legality of introducing additional annual base charges,” Georg Serentschy, Managing Director of RTR’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Division, remarked.
The question of legality must be answered in the affirmative, although RTR-GmbH considers such changes an unwelcome development. “Consumers are confronted with increasingly complex rate packages, price transparency is affected adversely and comparing offers becomes more difficult,” Georg Serentschy commented.
These lump sum charges, which are often referred to as “Internet service charge” or “SIM charge”, are sometimes already included in the original contract but may be also introduced unilaterally by the operator at a later time during the contract period. Operators have several options for making unilateral changes to an active contract. Customers, however, usually have only the right to terminate the contract, but cannot choose to continue the contract under the old terms.
Operators must inform customers actively of their rights. It is not permissible to present this obligatory information (e.g. on the bill) in such a way that the average customer does not notice it. Should this be the case, the changes are not valid.
“Since operators are obliged to inform customers about such changes and the options available to them, it is important to read any information you receive, especially on (online) bills, carefully,” Serentschy recommended, adding: “If the customer is not willing to accept the Internet service charge, we recommend exercising the right to terminate the contract as per Art. 25 Par. 3 TKG 2003 and switching to a service provider who does not charge such a fee.”