Household: TV costs for tenants: The “utility costs privilege” will soon be abolished

Household: TV costs for tenants: The “utility costs privilege” will soon be abolished

Anyone who picks up the remote control in the coming months may see a black screen after pressing the button. This may be because the previous TV contract has expired.

A few weeks before the expiry of a legal regulation according to which tenants have to pay the fees for TV connections via the additional costs, millions of tenants in Germany may gradually come under time pressure. They have to sign contracts themselves if they want to watch TV as before. An overview of the topic.

What is it about?

For four decades, the “utility cost privilege” existed, also known as apportionability. Tenants paid the costs for the cable TV signal through the operating costs, i.e. with the rent. The tenant did not have to worry about anything – that was practical, especially since the monthly price was quite low at a single-digit euro amount.

This was because every tenant in a building took part and the landlord had received a large volume discount in the collective contract. The catch: not all tenants wanted to join in – some would have preferred to save on the cable costs.

What changes?

From July, landlords will no longer be allowed to pass on TV costs to tenants. Tenants who have previously paid through the additional costs must go their own way in terms of contracts. Alternatives to the cable operators Vodafone and Tele Columbus include online services such as Magenta TV from Deutsche Telekom, as well as Waipu and Zattoo. Antenna TV and satellite dishes are also options – provided the landlord allows the dishes to be placed on the balcony or roof. The tenant must therefore conclude his own contract or take part in a new contract structure from Vodafone, which the tenant can but does not have to take part in – he pays for this separately from the rent.

Will I get a black screen if I ignore the deadline?

Yes and no. There will be no quick, hard cut, says Vodafone: The television signal will not be switched off in a flash just because the landlord’s collective contract is no longer valid. At the same time, however, the providers are increasing the pressure.

“We are doing everything we can to inform tenants about the upcoming legal change and will contact them several times,” says Germany boss Marcel de Groot, adding: “Where tenants decide against a cable TV connection despite repeated contact, we will also disconnect connections.” Tele Columbus, with the Pÿur brand, also says that they will inform tenants several times and only then switch off.

How many tenants have not done anything yet?

For years, a good 12 million tenants were affected by the ancillary costs privilege, but now the number is probably fewer, as many landlords have already terminated their collective contracts and informed tenants that they should stand on their own two feet or join new contract structures. According to a Yougov survey commissioned by the price comparison portal Check24, 30 percent of tenants have not yet decided how they want to watch TV in the future. The survey was conducted at the end of April.

What does the end of the ancillary costs privilege mean for companies?

The competition is in full swing, Deutsche Telekom, Waipu and Zattoo are sensing a new dawn – the ancillary costs privilege was a brake on their business, which is now being removed. Market leader Vodafone is having to accept losses, in the first quarter of 2024 the number of TV customers fell by 650,000 to 11.8 million. Around two thirds of these are tenants who are affected by the ancillary costs privilege, the rest are homeowners and tenants who have their own TV contracts.

Vodafone and Tele Columbus are trying to find something positive in the unfortunate situation and to retain users with new contracts. They are trying to talk to customers and also want to sell Internet contracts at the same time. These are cheaper for consumers than booking cable TV and the Internet separately.

Is Deutsche Telekom the big winner?

The Bonn-based company is undoubtedly a winner of the new regulation, although the gains so far have been modest. In the first quarter of 2024, the Bonn-based group added 126,000 customers to its Magenta TV, bringing the total to around 4.4 million. However, compared to Vodafone’s sharp decline, this is a rather weak increase.

When asked about this, Telekom’s finance chief Christian Illek points to “cord cutters”. These are “people who say I don’t need the whole thing anymore and they don’t watch TV at all, but only use streaming services”. This is causing the television market to shrink. Fees are charged for some apps, but public broadcasters can be watched for free via the ARD media library, for example.

Will it be more expensive for tenants who want to watch TV?

Probably yes, but only a little. At Vodafone, the price range was roughly seven to nine euros per month; in the future, according to company information from the beginning of the year, it will be around eight to ten euros – assuming a new agreement is used that includes a certain number of customers.

However, if there is no framework agreement and the tenant is on his own as an individual customer, he has to shell out almost 13 euros per month with Vodafone. The cheapest tariff with the streaming provider Zattoo costs 6.49 euros and with Waipu it costs 7.49 euros. A separate internet contract is required for both online services, which may already be included with Magenta TV via Telekom.

What do consumer advocates say?

In principle, they welcome the end of the service charge privilege, as it gives tenants freedom of choice when it comes to television use. However, consumer advocates warn against dubious salespeople who ring the doorbell and pressure tenants to sign.

“Sometimes it is made to seem as if the tenant has to sign a contract now, otherwise they will lose television and internet – although that is not true at all, you can also sign later and get information elsewhere first,” says Felix Flosbach from the NRW consumer advice center. The consumer advice centers have repeatedly received complaints about such unfair door-to-door sales.

Source: Stern

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