Over the summer, Germany's 16 states agreed to overhaul the system funding public TV and radio. But what was intended to be a simplification could cost some companies and households up to double the fees they paid previously, the president of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) said.
“In cases of doubt the economy would have to pay up to double as much as before,” Hans Heinrich Driftmann told daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. “It will hit some, such as chain stores, particularly hard.”
In an example, Driftmann explained that a drugstore chain with 23,000 workers and 1,150 stores would have to pay up to half a million euros per year in GEZ fees, but a single-location business the same size would pay just €32,000.
“We can't accept that,” the DIHK president said.
Meanwhile Otto Kentzler, head of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH), told daily Passauer Neue Presse that it was unacceptable for “numerous businesses to be in danger of paying two, three or even six times as much as before.”
Already German businesses provide some €450 million in GEZ fees to finance the public broadcast system, he said, saying this made up about six percent of the organisation's entire earnings.
The new GEZ fee model, set to begin in 2013, would charge a per-household fee for private television and radio owners. Businesses would also no longer pay per device, with fees being based on their number of employees, locations and vehicles.
The Cologne-based GEZ stands for the mouthful Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or “Fee-collection Centre of Public Broadcasting Institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany.”
The organisation requires a licence of some 42.5 million owners of televisions, radios and, for the past few years, even computers and mobile phones that access the internet. The fee money funds public broadcasters such as ARD and ZDF, and is often collected by plainclothes officials who go door-to-door busting fee-shirkers.
It's a difficult task for the organisation's 1,100 employees, and consumers frequently bring cases against the GEZ to court. The 2013 reforms are meant to relieve families of high fees and reduce internal costs.