Court rules internet access a basic right
A top German court ruled this week that people can sue their internet providers for damages if their connection fails. Access to the internet had become a basic right, the country's justice minister said.
Using the internet and having an email address were a modern necessity, the federal court judges decided on Thursday. Should the provider be at fault when an internet connection fails, its customers would now be able to claim damages.
While amounts have not been finalized, the court said that it would likely not be large sums and that if a customer had a smartphone with internet access, the payout would be even less.
The court compared the situation to when a car owner claims damages after an accident. They may usually claim around 40 percent of the vehicle's worth from the party at fault. This would be around the same for internet users but of a monthly tariff payment.
Behind the ruling is a case put forward by a man who was cut off from the internet when his provider was purchased by another firm. He could not access his internet for two months due to an administrative error.
He took 1&1, the telecom firm which bought out his original provider, to court and demanded €50 a day in damages for each day he could not get online, use his landline or his fax machine.
The court decided that he was within his right to claim damages for the internet. But his mobile served as a replacement for his landline and fax was not a daily necessity.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that the ruling showed “how fundamental the internet has become for an informed life.” And that the decision was a recognition of the fact that using the internet was a basic right in Germany.