Selbstverständlichkeiten

Things that go without saying.

The supreme court in Karlsruhe [Bundesgerichtshof] said companies may not make ads praising themselves for doing things they’re required to do by law.

A lower court had decided the ads were okay because the “money-back guarantee,” which German law required of these companies anyway, wasn’t particularly emphasized in the ads in question. The Bundesgerichtshof disagreed. It doesn’t take much emphasis to mislead consumers, said the Bundesgerichtshof.

(ZELBST fair SHTENNED lichh kite en.)

Intransparente Preisgestaltung

“Intransparent pricing.”

The German supreme court in Karlsruhe [Bundesgerichtshof, BGH] found for the plaintiff in a case brought by the North Rhine-Westphalian consumer protection agency on behalf of natural gas customers against “intransparent price increase clauses in special contracts” of the utilities company R.W.E. Apparently “special contracts” [Sonderverträge, Sonderkundenverträge] in this case are contracts for customers who switched to their current utility from a prior utility. The court found insufficient reasons were cited for price increases on these customers’ utility bills. A ratepayer interviewed on tagesschau.de said when he asked about it R.W.E. fobbed him off by telling him their rates were raised for “responsible, suitable and well-grounded reasons” (“wir haben verantwortungsbewusst, angemessen und begründet kalkuliert”), still without citing them.

The BGH decision was based on a European Court of Justice ruling that the criteria for rate increases have to be notified to these customers when they sign their contract. It is not enough to merely notify European utility customers in advance of rate increases and give them a right to cancel their contract.

Clauses in “special gas contracts” must contain information about causes for, prerequisites for and scope of possible price increases, in a clear and understandable manner, the BGH judges said.

The German court’s decision applies retroactively for the past three years. Millions of German billpayers are now being encouraged to check their natural gas contracts’ price increase clauses for legality and apply for their money back if they don’t meet requirements. A press release about the decision from the North Rhine-Westphalian consumer protection agency said >70% of Germany’s 13.5 million gas customers are on these special contracts because they’ve switched utilities—encouraging market forces to rationalize prices for consumers!—and recommended the energy utilities provide “slender and consumer-friendly procedures” for the affected customers to ask for and receive their money back.

(Inn tronz par ENT eh   PRIZE geh SHTOLT oong.)

Kassenvertreter

“Representatives of Germany’s health insurance schemes.” Who have been demanding that a gap be closed in German law, after the German supreme court (Bundesgerichtshof) found six months ago that practicing physicians could not be punished for preferentially prescribing pharmaceuticals from companies that had given them gifts, because the relevant German regulations applied only to employees and not to the self-employed. Germany’s health insurance companies are pushing for this loophole to be closed by new rules, with fines or prison terms of up to three years for culpable physicians. Politicians from opposition parties accused the Ministry of Health (Bundesgesundheitsministerium) under Daniel Bahr (FDP) of not fixing the problem in order to allegedly protect practicing physicians, who are loyal FDP voters. The health insurance representatives estimate that one in five German physicians has accepted money or gifts from the pharma industry.

(COSS en fer TRAY terrr.)

Computererfahren

“Computer-experienced.” In a case appealed to the German supreme court (Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe, a spokesman for the music industry said most parents of children accused of illegal music downloads were “computer-experienced.” Yet the high court decided on 15 Nov 2012 that German parents who have informed their children about the illegality of certain downloads are not financially responsible when their children are accused of making such downloads. One of the judges said constantly checking your child’s activities as the overturned decision would have required was no way to raise a responsible young person. The music industry is still allowed to sue children directly, however.

Update on 21 Mar 2013: This decision, now called the “Morpheus” decision, has been augmented by another in Cologne stating that the main renter of a shared apartment cannot be held financially responsible for files illegally downloaded by roommates. In some cases.

Update on 08 Jan 2014: The Bundesgerichtshof in Karlsruhe decided that a father could not be sued by music companies for the downloading and uploading behavior of a child past the age of consent, even if the family apartment’s internet connection was in the father’s name. ARD tagesschau.de’s legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam said the decision also included the conclusion that parents are no longer required to have instructed adult children about legal handling of copyrighted materials.

(ComPUTer   err FAR en.)

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