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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in March 2022

From stronger consumer rights and the clocks going forward to the end of many Covid restrictions, here's what's changing in Germany this March.

Everything that changes in Germany in March 2022
Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

An end to Germany’s long contract extensions

We all know the feeling: one day late in cancelling your gym membership and you’re suddenly signed up for another year. Well, that should be a thing of the past soon.

Over the last few months, Germany has been bringing in changes aimed at strengthening consumer rights.

In the latest step, contracts signed from March 1st 2022 will have shorter notice periods. So that means if you sign up to a streaming service, the gym or an electricity provider, for instance, you can get out of the contract more easily. 

After the minimum contract period, consumers can cancel their contract with a month’s notice and are not automatically bound for another year. However, this does not apply to insurance contracts so check the terms and conditions there. 

Late last year Germany brought in a similar law regarding the automatic renewal of contracts for phones and the Internet. 

READ ALSO: How Germany has made it easier to cancel phone and broadband contracts

Covid rules to be relaxed

From March 4th, the 2G-plus regulation in restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels will no longer apply. It means that unvaccinated people will be able to visit a restaurant again with a negative Covid test, under 3G rules. Nightclubs will also be able to reopen from 4 March – under 2G-plus rules, meaning people will need to be vaccinated or recovered with a negative Covid test or a booster shot to enter.

From March 20th, far-reaching Covid restrictions will be dropped, but basic measures will remain in place. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid reopening plan

A sign urging people to wear masks in a Berlin shop.

A sign urging people to wear masks in a Berlin shop. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Covid vaccine mandate for employees in health and care

From March 15th, people who work in health or social care will need to be vaccinated or have recovered from Covid. Those who fail to provide proof can face a fine. However, there may be some differences in the implementation depending on the German state.

Better protection for insects

With every passing year, more insects disappear – yet they are indispensable for humans and the ecosystem. Since 2009, about a third of all species have disappeared from meadows and forests in Germany, according to a study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Now under a new law, insect habitats are to be better protected. Meadow orchards and dry stone walls will be recognised as biotopes and the use of insect-damaging biocides like wood preservatives, will be restricted. In nature reserves, new street lighting and illuminated advertising are prohibited.

This is to protect nocturnal insects from light pollution. However, the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) does not think the law goes far enough to protect insect diversity in Germany. The organisation is calling for a ban on insecticides in bird sanctuaries and a ban on pesticides containing glyphosate earlier than 2024.

Hands off the hedge

From the beginning of March, the annual grace period for hedges begins. To protect breeding birds, hedges in Germany can only be heavily trimmed during the winter months (from October to February). There is a risk of being fined if you do try to chop up the bush or hedge outside your home. However, minor pruning is allowed in spring and summer.

READ ALSO: Why you should cut your hedge in Germany this February 

Organ donation

Have you documented your views on organ donation? 

A new law which came into force this month aims to make it easier for people to decide and let authorities know whether they want to donate their organs or not. GPs will be able to talk to their patients about organ donation every two years (so your doctor may chat to you about it at your next appointment).

German authorities should also provide information about organ donation, for example when they want to change a driving licence or apply for a new passport.

A nationwide register in which people can state their position for or against organ donation, will go ahead but not this month. It will likely be postponed until the end of the year due to the pandemic, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.

Green licence plate for scooters 

The colour of insurance plates for motorcycles changes every year to make it easier to check whether vehicle insurance is up to date. As of March 1st, all mopeds will have to carry a green insurance number plate instead of a blue one.

Vehicles that must carry an insurance plate include mopeds or scooters, light mopeds, Segways or light quad bikes. Anyone still driving around with the previous blue plate may be fined.

Works council elections

From March 1st to May 31st, new employee representatives will be elected in some 28,000 companies in Germany. Keep an ear out for it in your workplace.

Spring arrives (and clocks go forward)

The official beginning of spring season falls on Sunday March 20th (the same day that many Covid restrictions end) and will last until June 21st, when summer begins.

And get ready to lose an hour’s sleep. On March 27th, the clocks will be set forward by one hour from 2am to 3am. Daylight saving time will then remain in effect until the last weekend in October.

Cherry blossom trees in Berlin.

Cherry blossom trees in Berlin in 2021. Spring is coming. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Berlin public holiday

People living in the city state of Berlin can enjoy a day off on March 8th for Frauentag (Women’s Day). That falls on a Tuesday – so most people will get a day off for it.  The Feiertag, launched in 2019, means Berlin has 10 official holidays. Although this year, sadly, some holidays fall on the weekend.

READ ALSO: How you can make the most of the 2022 public holidays

Eurovision Song Contest

This month we’ll find out who will compete for Germany in the Eurovision Song Contest on May 14th in Turin. German broadcaster NDR unveiled the selection of musical talents and invited the whole country to get involved in the selection process. At 8.15pm on Friday March 4th, viewers will be invited to tune in to Germany 12 Points and viewers at home will be encouraged to vote. Barbara Schöneberger will once again host the show.

ARD pop radio stations are also being given the chance to vote up until Friday. 

German pizza birthday 

On March 24th, German pizza celebrates its 70th birthday. It all began in 1952 when the first pizza restaurant in Germany, the “Sabbie di Capri”, opened in the old town of Würzburg. Nicolino di Camillo, who died in 2015, came to Bavaria with the American Army from Chieti in Italy and is said to have started the pizzeria with his wife Janine Schmitt.

Anything we missed or something you’d like to know more about? Let us know: [email protected]

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

From public holidays and Covid rule changes to a tax deadline and shopping, here are the changes to know about in Germany this May.

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

May Day

Germany celebrated International Workers’ Day on May 1st. But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, didn’t result in a day off work for most people because it fell on a Sunday this year. Schade. But no matter, there is another public holiday ahead…

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Ascension Day/Father’s Day

Is Thursday May 26th a religious holiday or a day when people in Germany, especially men, get extremely drunk? It’s actually both. Christi Himmelfahrt is about remembering Jesus’ ascent into heaven, but it’s also about day-drinking. 

That’s because it’s Father’s Day (Vatertag), or Men’s Day (Männertag), and the traditional way that Germans like to be thankful to dad is with a ton of alcohol. 

It’s a national public holiday in Germany every year so many people will get the day off work, and supermarkets will be closed. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans get wholly wasted on Ascension Day

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father's Day 2021.

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father’s Day 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Covid ‘hotspots’ to drop several rules

Most people in Germany saw tough coronavirus restrictions – like 3G or 2G entry to venues – fall away around the start of April. But two states – Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – declared themselves Covid hotspots and lots of restrictions stayed in place. But that’s set to change. Hamburg’s hotspot regulations are set to end automatically at the end of April, while many of the remaining restrictions in Meck-Pom were lifted on Thursday, April 28th. 

READ ALSO: German Covid hotspot states to lift most restrictions

Pre-sale on €9 monthly travel ticket 

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is getting ready to introduce a massively reduced price ticket for three months over the summer to ease the cost of living and energy crisis. Now some transport providers say they will have a pre-sale on the ticket before it launches on June 1st. So keep an eye out online and in stations over the coming weeks. 

READ ALSO: How will Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket work?

2020 tax deadline

Those who submit their tax return with the help of a tax advisor always get a little more time to process it. But all things come to an end. The 2020 tax return must be submitted to the tax office by May 31st 2022 at the latest. Anyone who misses the submission deadline will have to pay a late filing fee. This is usually 0.25 per cent of the assessed tax, but at least €25. If this affects you and you haven’t got your tax advisor sorted yet, do it quickly. 

Online banking

Do you have an account with Postbank and use the chipTAN procedure for online banking? Then you are in for a change from May – the method of processing transfers by bank card and reader at home will be dropped. It is to be replaced by the BestSign method, which enables online banking via an app in combination with biometrics or password.

Beer prices likely to go up

We’ve all been dealing with higher costs for the likes of groceries and energy recently. Now beer drinkers will soon have to dig deeper into their pockets. After some breweries already increased their beer prices in April, others will follow suit in May. The Radeberger and Bitburger groups have announced that their beers will become more expensive, according to the Lebensmittelzeitung. The price increase will initially only affect the retailers, but it is likely that they will pass on the additional costs to consumers.

Discounted food to be labelled differently

Before supermarkets remove food going out of date, many offer discounts. Traders have to indicate a new price for these discounted products, with a tag. But from the end of May, a simple notice such as “30 percent cheaper” will be allowed – without indicating the new reduced price. This makes labelling easier for employees and, in the best case, will lead to less food waste.

Vegetables in a German supermarket.

Vegetables in a German supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Price checking to become easier

Price comparisons at supermarkets and discounters are to become easier for customers from May 28th. Up until now, the prices on tags at the likes of Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland and co. have been displayed differently. Sometimes the price is indicated per 100 grams, sometimes per kilogram. Due to a change in the law, the latter will soon be the only price that can be displayed. According to the new Price Adjustment Ordinance, it has to be clear at a glance how much a kilogram or a litre of the product costs. Consumers will therefore be able to compare prices between shops more easily without having to do their own conversions.

READ ALSO: How Germany is making it easier for consumers to cancel contracts

More protection and clarity during online shopping

Many people wonder why when they shop online at places like Amazon or other marketplaces, certain products appear at the top and keep reappearing. This should become easier to understand in future. Under news laws coming in from May 2022, providers will have to show more clearly how the sorting criteria offered came about. This includes, for example, showing the number of views and the date the offer was posted, its rating or that of the provider, the number of sales of the product or the “popularity”, commissions or fees.

According to the new amendment, there is also a clear labelling obligation for sellers to indicate whether they are selling privately, reselling or are direct sellers. Online shopping platforms will also have to ensure the authenticity of product reviews and to monitor the ban on fake reviews more closely.

The change also affects comparison portals such as Check24 or Verivox. From May 28th, they will also have to disclose which providers were taken into account in a comparison. Ticket exchanges will also have to provide information about the original price of tickets in order to inform buyers about additionally charged costs and fees.

Violations of the new information requirements can cost companies a lot: according to consumer advice experts, fines of up to €50,000 are possible. Companies with an annual turnover of more than €1.25 million can be fined up to four percent of turnover.

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sal

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sale. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Checks for doorstep selling

People in Germany are to be better protected against dubious doorstep selling. In the case of contracts concluded during uninvited house calls, payment may no longer be demanded on the day the contract is concluded. Purchases that were made door-to-door should therefore be easier to revoke if the customer decides so. However, this only applies to items or services costing over €50.

More protection against rip-off ‘coffee tours’

According to estimates, every year five million Germans take part in bus trips which end up being sales events. They are known as “Kaffeefahrten” or coffee tours. But stricter regulations will come into force from May 28th. The providers of these events will have to indicate in their advertising in advance where the event will take place, how participants can contact the organiser and what goods will be offered for sale. And when the new law comes into force, certain products may no longer be sold. For instance, it will be strictly forbidden to offer medical products such as weight loss pills, food supplements and financial services such as insurance or building society contracts. Meanwhile, the fine for violations will increase from €1,000 to €10,000.

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