Mobilcom-debitel was ordered to pay a hefty fine. The penalty is based on charges that the provider unjustly demanded from its customers. Apparently, it is said to amount to more than 12 million euros.
Consumer protectionists get the short end of the stick
Mistakes are human. So it can come in particular with the payment of long-term contracts times to deadline misses or the bare forgetting of a payment. The provider mobilcom-debitel apparently does not see this quite so casually. For some time now, the cell phone provider has been attracting attention with disproportionately high penalties when payment deadlines are missed or even incorrect amounts are transferred. The company has already been reprimanded in court for this procedure. The result was a ban on excessive flat-rate fees for dunning payments or returned direct debits.
What is advantageous for future customers often disregards past customers. This naturally raises the question of whether they too have a claim to repayment of excessive flat rates. Apparently, those affected unfortunately have to take the short end of the stick. Thus a court judged now that a requirement would not exist. While the German Consumer Protection Association (Deutscher Verbraucherschutzverein e.V.) triumphed in the first legal dispute in 2019, it has now unfortunately been forced to accept a defeat. The reason for the whole thing is the simple statute of limitations of the recovery claims.
Aggrieved parties must become active
Behind the whole issue is a simple principle of German law. Thus, in the case of mobilcom-debitel, aggrieved parties must become active themselves and assert their right to repayment. You don’t get anything for free here. Those affected could have done this from the court ruling in 2019. However, since the standard statute of limitations has now expired after three years, the aggrieved parties can no longer claim payment. A new regulation for such cases has always been demanded by consumer advocates. After all, many consumers simply do not know about their rights. It would be much easier if consumer protection associations could demand repayment from corresponding companies. In the case of mobilcom-debitel, the consequence would have been that the company would have paid back the affected customers their money without being asked.
The federal budget benefits
But Justice did find a way to ensure at least a little justice. So at the beginning of May, a so-called profit skimming procedure took place. As a result, mobilcom-debitel has to pay a total of 12.25 million euros into the federal coffers. This way, at least the nationwide budget benefits, and so does the population. However, mobilcom-debitel apparently got off lightly in the settlement reached at Kiel Regional Court. According to experts, the company is said to have earned far more money than “just” the EUR 12.25 million.