Hans-Torsten Richter gives you advice on surviving and thriving in Berlin. Send your questions to [email protected]
Q Dear Hans-Torsten: Over the last eight weeks my broadband has been cutting out regularly, two or three times a day. My provider has been helpful, opening support tickets and sending engineers out, but nothing has worked. What are my rights in Germany in regard to getting a discount on the service, or cancelling it entirely? — Daniel
A Dear Daniel: A 2011 lawsuit sets a precedent for this. A German court found that internet providers should be able to provide the actual internet data transfer speeds they’re selling. Makes sense. So I assume if you have periods of time with no access at all, a Sonderkündigung (special termination) of your contract should be possible. Just give it a try – write them a letter (on paper) explaining the situation and informing them that their own engineers can’t fix it. It’s a good idea to measure the connection speed using speedmeter.de during the periods when the connection is worst and sending in some screenshots with the letter as evidence that your connection is not performing as promised.
Q Dear Hans-Torsten: In my opinion, the Rundfunkbeitrag (German TV and radio license) is a load of bullshit. I don’t own a TV or radio. No reason to pay for something I don’t use. What happens if I don’t pay it? — Barry
Some really stubborn refuseniks have gone to jail: refusal to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag is a misdemeanour and can result in up to three months in prison!
A Dear Barry: Nothing can be said to be certain in Germany except death, taxes and the Rundfunkbeitrag. It’s probably one of the few topics that your average expat and your average AfD supporter wholeheartedly agree on. The former asks themselves why on earth they should be required to finance police shows like Tatort or cooking face-off Küchenschlacht when they can just stream Netflix. The latter complains about “forcibly financed state broadcasters” supposedly spreading left-wing propaganda on how wonderful refugees are for Germany and downplaying statistics on crimes committed by immigrants. I, for one, enjoy listening to Deutschlandfunk, a public news radio station funded by the Rundfunkbeitrag, and am happy to support its quality journalism. And public TV networks ARD and ZDF do some good documentary work alongside all the sports and entertainment. This is not the place for an in-depth discussion on the quality of German TV, though. It’s futile, since payment of the Rundfunkbeitrag is compulsory and if you want to avoid a whole lot of trouble and money, just pay the damn thing. If you don’t, you’ll get half a dozen reminders and late fees will pile up. Eventually they will freeze your bank account in order to collect the unpaid fees. Some really stubborn refuseniks have gone to jail: refusal to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag is a misdemeanour and can result in up to three months in prison! So, yeah, cough up that €17.98 per household per month and consider it part of the fixed costs of living in Germany. And while you’re at it, check out the websites of public broadcasters like ZDF, 3sat and Deutschlandfunk – there’s a lot of good stuff out there amidst the crap. Tip: welfare recipients can apply for an exemption, while people with impaired hearing or sight can apply to pay a reduced rate.