Fast and stable internet at home is becoming more and more important in everyday life. But what if the network is actually worse than ordered? A legal claim strengthens the customer’s back.

One year after the introduction of a right to reduce prices in the case of bad internet, test measurements continue to prove in thousands of cases that the provider’s performance is far too poor. From mid-December 2021 to the end of October 2022, consumers completed around 28,000 test measurements that are necessary for the legal claim, as the Federal Network Agency informed on request.

Almost exclusively a reduction claim was found. However, the number of these measurements has dropped significantly compared to the initial period of the legal entitlement, a good half of the said measurements (15,000) took place in the first two and a half months.

The President of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, is positive about the legal entitlement. “The measuring tool has become well established after a year,” says the former consumer advocate. “We help thousands of consumers to prove that their provider is underperforming.”

Right of reduction for landline internet

The right of reduction relates to landline internet. If the network at home is significantly worse than contractually agreed, the households are entitled to a reduction in the monthly payment. The measurement instrument required for this,, which can be used in the browser or as a desktop app, was launched on December 13, 2021.

Since then, the app has been downloaded and installed 100,000 times. Many consumers began the time-consuming measurements after the download, but did not complete them. 30 tests over three days are required, with varying intervals of time between the tests. Only those who persevere get a protocol at the end. The protocol does not contain how much consumers can reduce their monthly bill by – consumers have to clarify this with their provider. If the provider is stubborn, consumers could go to the district court. They would have good cards there.

Measurements too complex?

Consumer advocates complain that the measurements are too complex and not user-friendly. According to their estimate, the number of unreported households that have poorer Internet than contractually agreed is high.

The reasons for the recent decrease in the number of measurements are unclear. Internet providers see the development as proof that their performance has improved. They also point out that the number of measurements with demonstrably deficient Internet is very small in relation to the 38 million broadband connections in Germany. “In our opinion, the overall very low number of complaints clearly shows that the vast majority of users feel well taken care of with their Internet connections,” says Jürgen Grützner from the Internet industry association VATM (Association of Providers of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services).

Grützner emphasizes that the providers reacted accommodatingly to justified complaints from their customers and “the concerns in customer service can be solved without having to go through the formal procedure via the Federal Network Agency”.

Vodafone also speaks up. “Only very few fixed-line customers have so far applied for a reduction, which we have of course granted in justified cases,” says a company spokesman. “The number of applications is falling steadily and there are no lawsuits in this regard.”

Telekom is a little more specific. “The number of complaints is at a low level in the low three-digit number per week,” says a spokeswoman for the Bonn-based group. “We take care of every case and always look for accommodating solutions in the interests of our customers. Of course, we also grant the legally required reductions.” So far there have been no complaints.

Criticism of providers

Consumer advocates, on the other hand, express criticism of the providers. According to their findings, the companies “usually rejected a reduction or did not react, although the necessary documents were submitted,” according to a statement by the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv). “When reductions are granted, reduction amounts are often offered that appear too low to those affected.” Internet providers use different criteria to calculate the amount of the reduction. For consumers, it is sometimes “not explained in a comprehensible manner, even when asked, how the reduction amount comes about”.

“From the point of view of the vzbv, binding guidelines must be drawn up on which the calculations of the reduction by the Internet providers are based,” says vzbv digital officer Susanne Blohm. “The Federal Network Agency, as the competent supervisory authority, seems suitable for initiating a discussion process within the industry and making appropriate specifications.”

The consumer advice centers offer a reduction calculator on the Internet, with which Internet users can find out the exact amount of the reduction to which they are entitled according to the consumer advocates. After the launch of this website, there were 16,000 hits in June, since September the value has been around 2000 per month.