Cell phone contract becomes more expensive – what customers can do

Anyone who signs an Internet or mobile communications contract agrees a monthly price with the provider. If providers announce price increases, customers do not simply have to accept this.

Basic fee, data volume, call minutes, short messages – a cell phone contract regulates very precisely what the customer gets for a service and what he has to pay for it each month. If a price increase for the contract suddenly flutters into the house, users do not have to simply accept it. In principle, concluded contracts must be adhered to, says Felix Flosbach of the NRW consumer advice center.

Price adjustment for contract not easily possible

Deviations from the original contract are only possible within narrow limits. For example, if there are effective clauses for price adjustments, says the consumer protector. But even these may not be made at will, says attorney Dr. Matthias Böse from Neuss. “The corresponding clause would have to specify the reasons and the scope of the price increase in advance.”

Old contracts with ineffective adjustment clauses do not permit therefore a tacit adjustment. That concerns also already effected unilateral adjustments in the past, so the lawyer. If the offerer announces a price increase, one cannot quit the contract nevertheless however automatically. Because a so-called special right of termination does not exist, says Böse. The customer should insist on the agreed conditions.

Cell phone rate becomes more expensive – customers always have right of objection

New regulations should protect consumers

If they do not respond to the announced price increase in the contract, they risk the provider interpreting their silence as consent. “Such a fictitious consent can be agreed in the GTC. Whether this is then also compatible with the legal regulations and to what extent, is legally disputed,” says consumer protector Flosbach. In the case of a bank, the BGH declared such a clause invalid. So if the adjustment clause is missing or invalid, the provider needs the customer’s consent. If the customer does not agree, “the only thing left for him to do is to terminate the contract himself,” says Böse. However, the provider must fulfill the agreed contract term.

Consumers will presumably encounter such situations less frequently in the future. This is because from December 1, 2021, customers will be better protected against unilateral price adjustments by the new Telecommunications Act. Among other things, it provides for the right to terminate a contract without notice if changes – such as a price increase for the contract – are not exclusively to the customer’s advantage or are purely administrative.

In any case, the announcement of a price change is a good time to look around on the rate market. Older Internet rates, for example, are usually more expensive and slower than new ones. “This is also because the major Internet providers try to outdo each other with discounts for new customers – often to the detriment of loyal customers,” says Arne Düsterhöft from Finanztip. From the third year of the contract at the latest, existing customers often pay much more than new customers.

Term contract or prepaid?

In the case of cell phone contracts, the question arises as to whether a term contract makes sense at all. “With a prepaid tariff, you remain the most flexible and also have greater control over your telephone costs,” says Düsterhöft. This makes prepaid rates particularly suitable for children and occasional users, he adds.

Anyone who uses their cell phone or smartphone regularly would probably be better off with a fixed-term contract over two years. This also applies to those who like to own the latest smartphone. “Subsidized cell phones are usually only available with a contract term of 24 months, and in some cases new technologies are also initially only activated for contract customers,” says consumer advocate Flosbach.

To get a good overview of the many different rates for mobile communications and Internet, Arne Düsterhöft recommends searching via comparison portals.