Vodafone angered its customers with price increases for fixed internet. Consumer advocates believe that increasing the price of current contracts is unacceptable – and have now filed a class action lawsuit.
Consumer advocates filed a class action lawsuit against Vodafone at the Higher Regional Court in Hamm due to price increases for fixed internet. The Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv) announced yesterday that the telecommunications operator is not authorized to increase the price of current contracts.
The background: In the spring, Vodafone began raising the prices of all its fixed cable and DSL tariffs by five euros per month. For gigabit cable customers, for example, the monthly price rose from 40 to 45 euros. In total, around ten million customers were affected.
Unilateral Price increases in criticism
Vodafone has granted its customers a special right of withdrawal. But that’s not enough for consumer advocates. From his perspective, the Düsseldorf-based Internet company should not have unilaterally increased prices for ongoing contractual relationships, i.e. without renegotiating with customers.
“vzbv considers Vodafone’s price increases to be ineffective,” says the head of the association, Ramona Pop. The collective action aims to ensure that millions of Vodafone customers can get their money back directly. “An additional cost of five euros per month is a lot of money for many people.”
How Consumers Can Defend Themselves Now
But what do Vodafone customers have to do to defend themselves from price increases? Not much: just register with the so-called lawsuit registry, which will probably open in a few weeks. The collective action makes it easier for consumers to defend themselves against the increase, said vzbv boss Pop.
In fact, it’s much easier for consumers than before; With the new class action, their position is improving. You no longer need to seek confrontation with the company. Instead, the court – after a positive verdict for consumers – appoints a so-called administrator who receives the money from the losing company. It verifies consumers’ claims and then transfers an amount to them. The possibility of collective action has only recently existed in Germany; the corresponding federal law came into force in mid-October.
Vodafone points to inflation
However, Vodafone emphasizes that it has adhered to the applicable legislation. The company justifies the increase with higher energy and materials costs, for example, and points the finger at others: Most German companies have increased prices in recent months due to inflation, says a company spokesperson.
In fact, other telecommunications providers have also become more expensive this year, for example, United Internet subsidiary 1&1 has increased its prices. However, the class action is not directed against these companies. You cannot sue all companies at the same time, but first put Vodafone, a pioneer in price increases, in its place, says vzbv.
A procedure with a signaling effect
The case against Vodafone sends a certain signal to companies. It’s only about five euros per month, which each customer can get back. Depending on how many customers participate, it could be financially painful for Vodafone to lose in court.
Furthermore, a court ruling for consumers could have a deterrent effect on other companies – companies could become more cautious about price increases in current contracts in the future.