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Cost trap! Exceptions to telephone flat rates must be clearly recognizable

Even with a supposed telephone flat rate, it can always happen that calls to certain numbers incur costs. In one case, this has now led to a court ruling: The provider in question must clearly mark possible exceptions to its telephone flat rate.

A flat rate allows unlimited use of an item or service without incurring additional costs. At least that is the theory. However, there are always exceptions with telephone flat rates: Numbers that are not included in the flat rate. And that’s exactly what a court has now ruled.

Exceptions must be clearly visible in telephone flat rates

In the case of a telephone flat rate, it must be clearly and unambiguously indicated if certain numbers are excluded from the supposed flat rate – especially if they begin with a normal area code. This is the rough summary.

Specifically, the proceedings concerned measures taken by the telecommunications provider 1&1 Telekom. This provider is not allowed to advertise a telephone flat rate for the fixed network if there are countless chargeable exceptions to this and these are not clearly and unambiguously pointed out. This was decided by the Regional Court of Koblenz in a ruling.

Judgment for “misleading advertising

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) had filed a lawsuit after 1&1 Telekom advertised two Internet rates with, among other things, a telephone flat rate to the fixed network as part of the contract. In fact, however, there were exceptions for numbers with area codes that were not clearly evident.

However, the 100-page list of exceptions with chargeable area code numbers could only be accessed in eight steps. This includes, for example, dialing in for telephone conference services. As a result, the chamber did not consider it guaranteed that the average consumer would even take note of it.

Also interesting: Telekom significantly upgrades prepaid rates

O180 area codes and co. are left out of the loop

There was another reason for the court to allow the action for injunctive relief against misleading advertising. It was well known that certain service numbers (e.g., with area codes such as 0180, 0137 or 0900) incur additional costs even with a telephone flat rate. However, service numbers with geographic fixed-network numbers, i.e., numbers with normal area codes, were excluded from the flat rate to the fixed network. Here, consumers would not expect any chargeable services, i.e., no exception to their flat rate.


  • with material from dpa


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