Consumer Advocates Reach Judgment Against Vodafone’s Data Automatic

The District Court of Düsseldorf has decided that three terms in Vodafone Mobile contracts to the automatic booking of packets (data automatic) are not permitted.

The Federal Association of consumer centres and consumer associations – consumer centre Bundesverband e.V. (vzbv) – has achieved a stage victory on Vodafone. The District Court Düsseldorf has decided in a ruling that three data automatic clauses of the mobile provider Vodafone are ineffective (case No. 12 O 311/15).

Specifically, the District Court of Düsseldorf has declared these three clauses invalid:

 

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1 “we check during their contract period, whether a data option for you would be less expensive, set up, where appropriate, with a monthly term for you and inform you via SMS.”

“We consider 2. While a data option for you would be better to reserve their contract period, to establish them for you with a monthly term or to limit your bandwidth if you used up your inclusive volume to 32 kbit / s. We inform you by SMS.” 3. “[you have reached 90% of the volume of your data, we inform you via SMS about avoiding the bandwidth limitation on 32 Kbps:] depending on your additional data usage we switch from consecutive maximum 3 times for you within the billing month free data volume packages with 250 MB each.” The whole thing costs 3 euros each per data package. [So we ensure the best possible browsing experience with 100 Mbit / s for you.] You can reject the paid booking of packets via SMS of every time.”

The consumer advice centre Association, which had sued Vodafone stressed that “expensive additional services require the consent of the consumer” and “contract adjustments not may be hidden in price lists and footnotes”.

And further: “Mobile operator Vodafone may in future no clauses more for high-speed volume tariffs use, which will allow the subsequent activation of fee-based data packets without the consent of consumers.”

The clauses that are evaluated by the District Court as inadmissible had Vodafone partly in the small print footnotes at the rate ‘hidden’. Some were these formulations in the price lists.

The vzbv sees “in this data automatic an unreasonable, subsequent amendment of the treaties”.

The District Court of Düsseldorf “saw in the clauses of a breach of the principle that fringe benefits or other additional charges only with the consent of the consumer can be part of the contract. This should protect customers from unwanted legal bindings. In addition, it is questionable whether the customer always have interest to surf faster at an additional cost. This applies in particular if he deliberately opted for the cheaper contract and the booking in the sum is even more expensive than at a higher rate. Still is not in any case clear, how exactly the consumer may reject a booking.”