On posting to Germany most members of BFG will take out a contract for a home telephone (and home internet service) as well as a moblile phone. What most people do not know is that there are often extra costs when it comes to terminating contracts early on posting outside Germany. Most companies these days do not allow service families to cancel a contract on posting outside Germany without paying for the unused contract months. So what can you do?
A. Taking out a contract
Contrary to the position in the UK, telephone and other contracts in Germany have a fixed running period and are renewed automatically when this runs out. You must give notice a number of months (normally 1 to 3) before the day and month when you took out the contract. Example: if you took out a contract on 10 April 2014 for two years (ending on 09 April 2016) and you have a 1 months notice period, your notice must reach the company no later than 09 March 2016 - otherwise it runs on for another year.
Questions to ask before you sign a telephone contract:
- What is the minimum running period? Can it be changed?
- What is the automatic extension period after that?
- What is the notice period, i.e. how many months' notice do I have to give?
- If I cancel the contract early on posting to UK, do I have to pay for unused months?
If you are not happy with the answers, look for another company. Make sure what you have been promised by the company is set out in writing in English.
There are also companies that offer more flexible cancellation conditions on contracts. One example is TKS, who on their website offer and English speaking service, and for their TKS home telephone/internet service (landline) "no minimum contract duration/same day cancellation." Check out what is best for you and tell us about companies offering favourable conditions for members of BFG.
TIP - Beware of contract amendments
If your provider offers you a "better" or "cheaper" contract some time after you took out your contract - beware! A new contract means a new minimum running period, which could be two years, and if you give notice earlier, you have to pay for all or half of the remaining months. Check before you agree.
B. Cancelling a contract
Contracts must be cancelled in writing, giving details like name, address, contract number, effective date, etc.
For most contracts you are likely to have to pay half the cost for the unused months before the contract ends.
TIP 1 - Cancellation
This applies to contracts with companies that do not allow early termination of the contract without paying for the unused months. When it comes to cancelling your contract on posting outside Germany and your end-of-tour date is a few weeks or months after the end-of-contract date, give notice in time for the end-of-contract date and ask if you can extend the contract for those weeks or months. If they agree, you have saved the cost of the unused contract period.
TIP 2 - Get ready for cancellation
Check your end-of-contract date NOW, write it on your contract together with the last date for termination without paying for any unused months, so it is to hand when you get your posting notice. Alternatively check online or by telephone to get those details.
If the company writes back after your cancellation demanding half the payment for the remaining months, DO NOT IGNORE IT. If you do, they may sell your debt to a debt collector in Germany or in UK, and if/when they find you, you will have to pay much more than the original debt.