Consumer advice center issues warnings to Telekom, Vodafone and O2

Confusing contracts and additional services: Customers often have a hard time finding the right phone rate. Consumer protectors see the reason in bad consultation.

Because of bad consultation and offences against information duties in telephone stores the consumer center North Rhine-Westphalia warned the three large offerers Telekom, Vodafone and O2. The companies must promise to change their practices or those of their franchisees.

Otherwise, the consumer protectors could sue for high penalties in court, said the NRW state chairman of the consumer center, Wolfgang Schuldzinski. Spokesmen for Vodafone and O2 rejected the accusations. Deutsche Telekom did not initially respond to the criticism.

Offers must be in writing

Concretely it concerns among other things the obligation of the telephone advisors, introduced in December, to present their offer to the customer before the signature completely in writing summarized. This is intended to prevent customers from losing track of what they are paying for and being sold unnecessary or overly expensive services. A detailed written offer also makes it easier to compare prices, Schuldzinski said.

So far however as good as no advisor keeps to this documentation obligation: With a sample in 198 telephone stores in completely North-Rhine/Westphalia in January only one submitted the legally prescribed summary of the offer of its own accord, five further still on express demand – the others not, complained the Verbrauchersch├╝tzer.

Providers reluctant to accept criticism

A Telef├│nica spokesman emphasized that employees in O2 and partner phone stores had been trained in the new legal situation. Customers would receive the prescribed contract summary before ordering. However, the company is taking the criticism as an opportunity to “once again point out the procedures to its own sales teams and, in particular, sales partners.”

“Vodafone attaches great importance to sustainable business and competent advice,” the company explained. Contracts should only be concluded if the customer consciously wants to have and use the product. There are also “clear processes and guidelines” in Vodafone stores for the issue of contract summaries, it said. “However, we will take another close look at the information provided by the NRW consumer center on the subject of summarizing contract terms and conditions and, if necessary, retrain locally,” a spokesperson explained.

No right of withdrawal for in-store contracts

Time and again, customers come out of the stores with contracts that are far too extensive and additional services that they don’t even need, reported the head of the Essen advice center, Manuela Duda. With monthly costs of 40 to 70 euro and usually 24 months running time of the contracts that represents a genuine poverty trap. There is no right of withdrawal for contracts concluded in the store – in contrast to sales talks on the phone.

Such a right of withdrawal must also be introduced for in-store contracts, Schuldzinski demanded. Duda and Schuldzinski advised consumers not to sign contracts in stores on the representatives’ tablet PCs under any circumstances. Then one loses the overview of the regulations. Customers should have the offer printed out in full and study it at home at their leisure.