Upon complaint of the Federal Association of Consumer Organisations in Germany, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt in 2014 judged unlawful to request a fee for shipping conventional paper bills.
The German Federal Court of Justice has upheld a previous decision of the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt declaring it unlawful for mobile phone providers to charge consumers extra for paper bills.
Online bills can´t be imposed:
The regional court of Hamburg prohibited an energy supplier to put a check mark in the online registration next to the sentence “I also want to get invoices online”, although customers were able to actively remove it again (Az .: 406 HKO 2011/16).
The “market guardians”, a special department of the German consumer associations, had made the complaint.
Even in the age of digitalization, companies are not allowed to push their customers away from paper invoices.
Also pressure in the form of charges is unlawful. A recent decision by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) shows that companies are not allowed to charge extra fees for paper invoices (Az .: III ZR 296/16), even if online invoices are now a “normality” in many sectors, according to the judges. Source: DVBF
Legal case studies
On 9 October 2014 the Federal Court of Justice upheld the Higher Regional Court of Frankurt’s decision declaring it unlawful for mobile phone providers to include an additional fee for conventional paper bills in their standard business terms.
According to the Court, paper bills and their shipping cost are part of the provider’s expenses which cannot be passed on to the consumer without violating Art. 307 of the German Civil Code. Provisions in standard business terms containing such a mechanism are incompatible with the fundamental ideas of said article, which furthermore indicates an unreasonable disadvantage for the consumer contrary to good faith.
BGH III ZR 32/14 (October 9, 2014)
„Die Klausel in Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen eines Mobilfunkanbieters, nach der für die Zusendung einer Rechnung in Papierform (zusätzlich zur Bereitstellung in einem Internetkundenportal) ein gesondertes Entgelt anfällt, ist jedenfalls dann unwirksam, wenn der Anbieter sein Produkt nicht allein über das Internet vertreibt.“
Jede Entgeltregelung in Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen, die[…] Aufwendungen für die Erfüllung eigener Pflichten oder für Zwecke des Verwenders abzuwälzen versucht, stellt […] eine Abweichung von Rechtsvorschriften dar und verstößt deshalb gegen § 307 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 BGB. Darüber hinaus indiziert die Unvereinbarkeit einer Klausel mit wesentlichen Grundgedanken der gesetzlichen Regelung eine gegen Treu und Glauben verstoßende unangemessene Benachteiligung des Vertragspartners gemäß § 307 Abs. 1 Satz 1 BGB.
Requesting a fee of € 1.50 for shipping conventional paper bills is unlawful according to a judgment of the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt, Germany.
These costs would represent an unreasonable disadvantage for customers without Internet access. It was the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations that went to court.
The judgment is not yet final because it was challenged for revision by the provider. It is likely that the provider will even go up to the level of the Federal Constitutional Court so it can take another year until the final judgement.
No national campaigns are known at this stage.