It is well known that it can be difficult to get on the Internet in rural areas. But there still seem to be white spots in the capital. “I was in Berlin-Mitte yesterday and had no internet connection,” annoyed Germany’s top consumer advocate, Klaus Müller.
There is at least one consolation: The head of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (VZBV) is not alone with this problem. Problems with the Internet and everything connected to it cause problems for 56 percent of consumers. There is no issue that concerns citizens more than a lack of or a slow network, contracts falsified on the phone or trouble with online purchases, shows the one presented on Thursday Consumer report.
For six years now, the VZBV has been asking citizens about consumer policy issues, and the answers are supplemented by the experiences of the consumer advice centers from their advisory practice. Here, too, the internet and digital sector is at the forefront. Of the 260,000 inquiries and complaints received by the consumer advice centers in the first half of the year, a third related to the digital sector. However, you have to know that the surveys were carried out in July and August when the rising energy prices weren’t that big a topic yet. The results might look different today.
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Müller fears that rising gas prices and heating costs will only really hit Germans when the desire for warmth is greatest: in winter. The gas price has already tripled on the spot markets, but due to the long-term purchasing policy of many suppliers, the increases reach customers with a delay.
Müller warns: it gets really expensive in winter
“In December, January and February there is a threat of a significant increase in gas prices,” warns the consumer advocate. Politicians must arm themselves and help people with low incomes: Housing benefits must be increased, electricity and gas bans that threaten defaulting payers must be suspended, and tenants and landlords should share the costs of the new CO2 pricing, says Müller. This burden is currently borne by the tenants alone.
If you believe the consumer report, 83 percent of consumers are of the opinion that politics must promote climate protection through clear rules and standards. However, 77 percent also see themselves and their consumption decisions as having an obligation, 72 percent believe, however, that rising prices should be cushioned by the CO2 tax for low-income consumers. The VZBV boss goes beyond that: Müller demands that all income from CO2 pricing be returned to consumers. “Today the money is more likely to flow to Russia, Norway or the Arab states,” says the consumer advocate with a view to rising energy prices.
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What consumers want from the new government
In the opinion of consumers, the most important topic for the coalition negotiations is the area of care and health, followed by consumer education, climate protection, private pension provision and protection against cost traps in contracts for cell phones, gyms and electricity.
In the previous legislative period, the grand coalition struggled to pass a law for fair contracts agreed that, among other things, stipulates short notice periods for automatic contract renewals and stipulates that electricity and gas contracts concluded over the phone must be confirmed in writing by the consumer in order to take effect.
Federal Minister of Justice Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had not been able to enforce further plans against the Union. Now Müller is hoping for the new government and a reform of the reform that prohibits contracts with a two-year term and makes written confirmation by customers mandatory for all deals initiated by telephone.
Slow internet: help is coming soon
Müller also hopes for improvements in the Internet area. Three million people in Germany are still without an Internet connection. Many other German citizens pay for services that have been promised to them, but which they do not receive.
As of December, those affected whose broadband offers less speed than contractually agreed can reduce or cancel payments to the provider. The tool to measure performance is available free of charge from the Federal Network Agency.
For Müller this is progress, but it is not enough for him: “People have to be able to rely on their Internet working,” he says. Just like electricity from the socket or water from the tap.