Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle has succumbed to enormous political pressure to rein in the companies which profit from making their customers wait on premium rate lines such as the 0180 and 0900 numbers.
The daily Tagesspiegel reported on Saturday that Brüderle had agreed to outlaw such practices by including a new rule in an amendment to a telecommunications law.
The paper said the companies being called on such numbers benefit the most from keeping their customers waiting – firms such as Lufthansa, Vattenfall and Debitel earn between 75 and 90 percent of the amount paid by the caller.
Brüderle, a member of the Free Democratic Party, had tried to resist the pressure from colleagues such as Consumer Protection Ilse Aigner of the Christian Social Union, to rule out the on-hold fees.
He has now agreed after his own party voted unanimously in favour of a paper proposing the ban produced by Erik Schweickert, consumer affairs spokesman for the FDP.
This foresees a wait on the premium rate numbers being free until the caller has made contact with an advisor – regardless of whether the call is being made from a fixed line or mobile.
“Sometimes the cost for waiting to speak to someone can be more expensive for the caller than the service actually received,” said Schweickert.
“Should it actually be passed, it would be the first step for the government in polishing up its consumer policy performance,” said Gerd Billen, chairman of the federal association of consumer centres.
“Millions of German consumers who lose time and money in calls waiting queues will breathe a sigh of relief,” he said.