Vodafone has angered its customers by increasing fixed-line internet prices. Consumer advocates believe raising the price of current contracts is unconscionable and have now filed a class-action lawsuit.
Consumer advocates have filed a class action lawsuit against Vodafone at the Higher Regional Court in Hamm due to rising fixed-line Internet prices. The Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv) announced yesterday that the telecommunications provider cannot increase the price of current contracts.
The background to this: Vodafone began in spring to increase the prices of all its fixed telephone rates, both cable and DSL, 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 increase in criticism
Vodafone granted its customers a special right of termination. But that’s not enough for consumer advocates. From their point of view, the Düsseldorf-based Internet company should not have unilaterally increased the prices of ongoing contractual relationships, i.e. without renegotiating with customers.
“The vzbv considers Vodafone’s price increases to be ineffective,” says the association’s president, Ramona Pop. The class action lawsuit aims to ensure that millions of Vodafone customers can get their money back directly. “An additional cost of five euros a month is a lot of money for many people.”
How consumers can fight back now
But what do Vodafone customers have to do to defend themselves against price increases? Not much: just register in the so-called register of claims, which will probably open within a few weeks. The class action makes it easier for consumers to defend themselves against the increase, said vzbv head Pop.
In fact, consumers have it much easier than before; With the new class action lawsuit, your position is improving. You will no longer have to seek confrontation with the company yourself. Rather, the court, after a positive verdict for consumers, appoints a so-called administrator, who receives the money from the losing company. He checks the complaints of consumers and then transfers an amount to them. In Germany, the possibility of a class action lawsuit has only recently existed: the corresponding federal law came into force in mid-October.
Vodafone targets inflation
Meanwhile, Vodafone emphasizes that it has respected the applicable legislation. The company justifies the increase, for example, with higher energy and material costs, and blames 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 increased its prices. However, the class action lawsuit is not directed against these companies. You cannot sue all companies at the same time, but Vodafone, a pioneer in price increases, must first be put in its place, says the vzbv.
A procedure with a signaling effect
The process against Vodafone sends a certain signal to companies. It is only about five euros a month, which each client could recover. Depending on how many customers take part, Vodafone could suffer financial hardship if it loses in court.
Furthermore, a court decision for consumers could have a chilling effect on other companies: companies could become more cautious in the future regarding price increases in current contracts.