BONN (dpa-AFX) – Significantly more citizens than before have complained to the Federal Network Agency about unauthorized advertising calls. The number of such critical requests to speak was around 30,000 in the first four months of this year, 12,000 more than in the same period last year, the Federal Network Agency announced on Wednesday in Bonn.
Advertising calls are only allowed if the person called has given their prior consent. Authority chief Jochen Homann emphasized that the number of unreported cases is high. “So the truth is that the numbers will be considerably higher than what we are registering.”
He did not want to commit to one reason for the increase. When asked whether the increase could also be due to the corona pandemic, after all, many people have been in the home office since March 2020 and can therefore be reached more easily at home, Homann said: “That may be so, I am unable to judge.” In part, it could also have been due to the fact that the possibility of complaints has now become better known and therefore more people affected than before reported.
However, the increase is very clear. If you compare the previous years, the development looks different: in 2018 there were 62,200 complaints about unauthorized telephone advertising, in 2019 the number fell to 57,700 complaints, in 2020 this number rose again to 63,300 – the last annual value was higher than ever .
Calls that offer insurance, financial products and energy contracts are particularly annoying. On the other hand, the number of complaints about calls made about telecommunications services decreased after the agency made this area a focus of prosecution.
As a result of the complaints, the federal authority initiated investigations against numerous companies last year and issued 17 fines, which were often based on more than 1,000 consumer complaints. The network agency ordered the companies to pay a total of 1.35 million euros, about as much as a year earlier.
In the Federal Network Agency’s annual report published on Wednesday, the authors describe the calls as “a significant problem […]which leads to the annoyance and annoyance of numerous consumers in a variety of ways. “The telephone calls were” entangled “with often professionally trained methods in telephone advertising conversations with the aim of selling certain products or services even though the call was neither wanted nor allowed “.
A federal law on fair consumer contracts, which is still in the making, could alleviate the problem: It stipulates that electricity and gas contracts concluded by telephone must be confirmed in writing. In addition, the companies should be obliged to document the consent of consumers in telephone advertising. This would help the Federal Network Agency to check whether consumers had actually consented to telephone advertising. Homann sees the law very positively: “I think that will put a stop to one or the other abuse in this area.”
There are also such assessments in the Bundestag. The CDU member Sebastian Steineke said the law was a response to the high number of consumer complaints at the Federal Network Agency. “With the law for fair consumer contracts, we are consistently taking action against cost traps, including on the phone.” In particular in the case of fraud-prone facts such as energy supply contracts, according to his statement, it will most likely be prevented that unauthorized telephone advertising will continue.
On the other hand, criticism came from opposition ranks. “Unauthorized phone calls are obviously a problem that the federal government and the Federal Network Agency have underestimated,” said the FDP member of the Bundestag Reinhard Houben. “The bad habit of calling private individuals at home without being asked is rampant.” A corresponding regulation to prevent this is long overdue.
According to the FDP politician, the recently registered increase in complaints is at least partly due to the corona pandemic including home office. It could also be a reason that door-to-door sales no longer work in pandemic times. Presumably, therefore, some salespeople would have switched to the telephone. Houben is a member of the Advisory Board of the Federal Network Agency./wdw/DP/jha