Broadcaster fees could jump to €19 per month: report

Those monthly fees all residents have to pay towards public broadcasting could get steeper in the next five years, officials say.

Broadcaster fees could jump to €19 per month: report
Photo: DPA.

Germany's mandatory monthly broadcaster fee levied on households could increase from €17.50 to €19 in the next five years, media magazine Medienkorrespondenz reported on Thursday.

The commission to determine the financial requirements of broadcasters, KEF, met in February to discuss the fees and estimated that for the next contract period between 2017 and 2020, broadcasters would take in more revenues than they needed, to the tune of more than €500 million.

Given this expected surplus, the commission suggested two plans: either the broadcasters lower the fee to €17.21 per month, or keep it at its current level.

With either plan, the contribution would still need to be increased to at least €19 by the following contract period starting in 2021 to keep up with budgetary needs, according to Medienkorrespondenz .

The expected surplus is due to a change implemented in 2013 where all households must pay the fee, regardless of whether they have a television or radio.

KEF is supposed to present a final report of recommendations on April 13th in Mainz.

The collection of broadcaster fees has long been a source of contention among residents who feel the blanket contribution, regardless of whether households actually tune in to the public content, is unfair.

A case against public broadcasters was brought recently before a German high court, but the judges ultimately sided with the television and radio providers. The plaintiffs could still appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Before 2013, the contribution was charged based on how many televisions or radios each household owned, with some people refusing to answer the door when inspectors came around to count, or simply hiding their devices from sight.

A recent survey by opinion research firm INSA and magazine Focus showed that 70 percent of respondents said they no longer wanted to pay the fees.

Various groups have also organized online to “boycott” the fees and give each other advice when they start to receive letters threatening to seize assets if they don't pay up.

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Why a German court decision means you could be entitled to compensation from your bank

Germany’s federal high court has ruled that the Postbank is not allowed to raise fees without the explicit consent of a customer. The ruling is likely to have consequences for almost all German banks. Here’s how you can benefit from it.

Why a German court decision means you could be entitled to compensation from your bank
Postbank. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

The federal High Court (BGH) announced on Tuesday that it was not permissible for Postbank to change its terms and conditions based on a clause which stated that the customer’s consent would be assumed unless they expressly rejected the new terms.

The BGH ruled that “clauses in a bank’s general terms and conditions are invalid that assume the customer’s consent to changes in the general terms and conditions.”

The national consumer rights organization (VZBZ) had taken the bank to court because of the clause.

Postbank is far from the only bank to have such a clause, according to Der Spiegel. Most German banks have either exactly the same clause or one that has the same effect.

The clauses have been used by banks to increase account fees without expressly gaining the consent of the customer.

The ruling, coming from the country’s highest court, will have a wider impact than simply on this specific case.

According to the website customers can now reclaim all bank fees that have been introduced without the express consent of the customer since the start of 2018.

In other words, if you opened a bank account without having to pay fees for it and the bank subsequently started charging fees, you are likely to be entitled to compensation. The only circumstances under which you are not entitled to such compensation are when you signed a document giving your express consent to the new fees.

Finanztip has created a model letter (in German) that you can use to claim the wrongly charged expenses from your bank. They also say that you are entitled to charge interest on the fees.

According to Der Spiegel, two things are likely to happen when you request repayment from the bank.

Either the bank will say that it was surprised by the decision but will immediately consent to the repayment. It will then inform you of new fees to be paid on your account and ask you to sign a consent form, stating that your account will be cancelled if you do not do so.

You can either sign the form or look for a cheaper account elsewhere.

It is also possible that the bank will claim that the ruling does not cover the specific fees that were charged on your bank account.

In this case you can contact the bank ombudsman and request that they pursue the case for you. There are no costs involved in recruiting the services of the ombudsman.

SEE ALSO: How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Germany