Germans spend €150 million on hold

Germans spent more than 600 million minutes waiting on premium phone calls – and paid €150 million doing so, new figures showed on Saturday. Politicians have failed to hang up on expensive numbers despite discussing a ban.

Germans spend €150 million on hold
Photo: DPA

“These rip-off phone numbers are showing no sign of slowing down,” said Bärbel Höhn, deputy leader of the Green Party, which published the figures.

She told the regional paper Saarbrücker Zeitung the government was not doing enough to stop people being over-charged.

Hotlines and call centres, usually on 0180 codes were the worst offenders, keeping customers waiting for more than 616 million minutes last year. This cost €86 million, the Green Party report showed.

Sex and quiz phone lines, often hosted on 0900 numbers, kept people waiting for 48 million minutes, at a cost of €58 million. These numbers have an average cost of €1.20 a minute.

A telecommunications bill is being discussed in parliament, and includes a clause banning some expensive phone charges.

Under the proposal, only free numbers and those with area codes would be allowed to keep people waiting for a call. If companies want to charge people who are ringing they must set a flat price.

Yet this would not be enough, said Höhn. “There big loopholes which mean that recorded messages and choosing from a menu will still cost money,” she said.

The telecommunications bill includes other measures which have held it up in parliament, so any premium phone line ban itself being kept on hold.

DPA/The Local/jcw

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Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

An economic study has shown huge regional differences in income throughout Germany. So which parts of the country have the most to spend each month, and which are feeling the squeeze?

Where in Germany do people have the highest disposable income?

A study by the Economic and Social Sciences Institute (WSI) of the Hans-Böckler foundation reveals stark regional differences in disposable income in Germany. In some cases, households had as much as double the spending money of those in other parts of the country. 

Here’s where people have the most – and least – disposable income each month.

What is disposable income?

The WSI calculated disposable income as the sum of income from wealth and employment, minus social contributions, income taxes, property taxes and other direct benefits or taxes.

What’s left is the income which private households can either spend on consumer goods or save.

The study, which was based on the most recent available national accounts data for 2019, looked at the disposable income of all of the 401 counties, districts and cities across Germany.

Which regions have the highest and lowest disposable incomes?

The study found that the regions with the highest disposable incomes were in the southern states.

Heilbronn in Baden-Württemberg had the highest disposable income of all 401 German counties and independent cities – with an average per capita disposable income of €42,275. The district of Starnberg in Bayern followed in second place with €38,509.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: How much do employees really earn across Germany’s states?

By comparison, per capita incomes in the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in North Rhine-Westphalia were less than half as high, at €17,015 and €17,741 respectively. These regions had the lowest disposable income in the country. 

The study also found that, more than thirty years since German reunification, the eastern regions continue to lag behind those in the west in terms of wages.

According to the WSI, the Potsdam-Mittelmark district is the only district in the former east where the disposable per capita income of €24,127 exceeds the national average of €23,706.

Do regional price differences balance things out?

The study also showed that regionally different price levels contribute to a certain levelling out of disposable incomes, as regions with high incomes also tend to have higher rents and other living costs.

“People then have more money in their wallets, but they cannot afford more to the same extent,” WSI scientist Toralf Pusch explained.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When will Germany raise the minimum wage?

Therefore, incomes in the eastern states, adjusted for purchasing power, are generally somewhat higher than the per capita amounts would suggest.

That could explain why, even after price adjustment, the cities of Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg in western Germany continue to be at the very bottom of the list.

Saxon-Anhalt’s Halle an der Saale, on the other hand, which has an average disposable income of only €18,527, benefits from the lower prices in the east.