- Debts and outstanding liabilities from telephone contracts have been a reoccurring issue for BFG personnel. Telephone companies use debt collection agencies to follow up even relatively small amounts owed.
- In the main, issues arise due to poor communication and/or not reading or adhering to the terms and conditions of the contract. Consequently, you should request from your telephone provider a copy of your Terms and Conditions in English so that you fully understand what you are about to or have signed up to. This guide focuses on the main issues at each stage of the process.
Entering into a telephone / internet contract
- When entering into a (new) telephone / internet contract you should consider the time you are likely to be in Germany. This timeframe should match the contract term. If it does not you should consider having the contract amended to fall in line with your end of tour date before you sign.
Giving Notice of Cancellation of your telephone / internet contract
- It may seem odd to talk about contract cancellation shortly after you have taken out a (new) telephone or internet contract. However, in Germany telephone / internet contracts typically have a fixed period of 2 years. If notice of cancellation is not given properly the contract will automatically renew for another fixed period, typically 12 months.
- To avoid automatic renewal it is advised you give notice of cancellation as soon as possible. This ensures the contract will expire on the renewal date and not roll-over into another term. Most German telephone companies set out that you must give notice of cancellation at the very latest 3 months before the end of the contract term in order to avoid automatic renewal. However you can submit notice of contract cancellation earlier, at any time after entering the contract. The aim is for the contract to end at the nearest contractual expiration date.
More information can be found in Internet Providers Cancellation Advice
- When dealing with your telephone contract it is strongly advised you follow the below procedures.
- Notice of cancellation should be given in writing, giving all the necessary details, to the provider directly. All correspondence should be sent by recorded post and you must keep copies and proof of postage for your records.
- Items of telephone company property, such as routers, USB sticks and dongles must be returned at the end of contract. It is strongly advised that such items are returned by recorded post and that you keep proof for your own records. Alternatively, and if you are returning these items to a shop, insist on a receipt and keep it for your own records. Be aware that often these items can be given out at the beginning of a contract and you may not use them at all. However, they are still company property and must be returned.
- Cancel / terminate each telephone contract separately. Many families have multiple telephone / internet contracts. You need to be careful that you cancel / terminate each contract individually. If you have a mobile phone and home phone through the same provider each one will require a separate cancellation/ termination notice procedure.
- The shop is not the telephone provider. You should ensure that you cancel your contract with the provider directly. It is not advisable to deal with the shop because this can lead to misunderstandings.
- A BFG template letter giving notice of cancellation is found at Telephone Contract timely cancellation
Requesting an extension to a telephone / internet contract
- In circumstances where you have given notice of cancellation (as opposed to terminated) your telephone contract, you may wish to agree with your provider a short-term extension to cover any period from your contract end date to your move / leave date.
- A BFG template letter for contract cancellation with an extension request can be found at Telephone Contract timely cancellation plus extension
- Beware of the pitfalls if your provider offers you a "better" or "cheaper" contract during your existing contract term. You are at risk of entering another separate telephone/internet contract, with all the obligations that brings. Your existing contract will still exist unless you have terminated it in accordance with its Terms and Conditions. Check before you agree.
Early Termination due to Posting from Germany
11 German telephone companies do not usually allow customers to terminate a contract such that it ends before the contract end date (“Early Termination”). However, as a matter of policy German telephone companies allow Early Termination for British Forces personnel on posting outside Germany with 3 months notice.
- You should follow the best practice guidance contained in paragraph 6. You should attach proof of your posting outside Germany. If you are seeking Early Termination, you should expect to pay a sum to cover the remaining contract term. It may be possible to negotiate that amount.
- A BFG template letter requesting Early Termination is found at Telephone contract cancellation
- Do not think that if you leave Germany with debts or outstanding liabilities that those debts or liabilities cannot follow you, they may. There are mechanisms for a German company you owe money to (or a debt collection agency acting on their behalf) to obtain a judgement against you in a German court, have that judgement transferred to a British court and then have it enforced against your pay at source. If this happens you will have to pay both the sum and all the legal costs the creditor has incurred taking action against you. It also risks damaging your credit rating. It is important you get your contracts properly settled and your debts paid before your move. Do not ignore it!
- It is your responsibility to cancel or terminate your telephone / internet contract(s). You will not encounter legal problems if you follow your contract’s Terms and Conditions, the procedural advice and go through the contract cancellation or termination procedures.
- If you are having difficulties with your telecommunications service provider or debt collectors appointed on their behalf then you may need to instruct an English speaking German civilian solicitor at your own expense. A list of English speaking German solicitors is maintained be HQ BFG. It can be found here: English Speaking German Legal Advisers