Is it worth fighting with the internet provider over five euros? Probably not. But it is annoying. Last year, Vodafone sent many customers a price increase. The succinct reason: sharply increased costs. Since then, the Internet company has charged those who have not canceled an additional five euros each month – the so-called base price adjustment. But is that also legal? No, says the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (VZBV). And has filed a class action lawsuit against the company.

Those affected have been able to join this lawsuit since the end of April. More than 40,000 did so in the first week. Up to ten million households could be affected, because Vodafone has taken out so many internet contracts (DSL and cable) in Germany. The exact number is unclear. Vodafone did not want to reveal to Stern when asked how often it actually raised the price.

Who can join the lawsuit? And how good are the prospects? The star answers the most important questions:

Between March and October 2023, Vodafone sent letters to many of its customers who receive internet via landline or TV cable. In it, the company unilaterally announced that it would increase prices. Vodafone believes this is its right. A corresponding clause is part of the general terms and conditions. However, the VZBV sees it differently: the price adjustment clauses are “unreasonably disadvantageous and non-transparent”. Consumer advocates have already litigated with companies over such clauses several times. The result: In principle they are allowed, but there are clear legal requirements. Above all, the reason for the increase must be understandable so that the company cannot simply increase its profit margin.

All consumers who have received a general price increase letter from Vodafone in 2023 can take part. According to the VZBV, the increase was usually five euros. However, other amounts could also have been charged. The amount is often found on the monthly bill as a “base price adjustment”.

Internet contracts for landlines and TV cable are affected, but not for fiber optics. The class action lawsuit is for consumers only – self-employed people and small businesses cannot join. Also excluded are customers who renegotiated the contract with Vodafone after the price increase in order to get a higher data rate. Because then there is approval of the new price.

The consumer advocates have put a lawsuit check online that customers can use to check whether their case also fits into the class action lawsuit. Anyone who can join will receive precise information and suggested wording at the end of the lawsuit check for entry in the so-called lawsuit register at the Federal Office of Justice. Anyone who registers there is automatically part of the class action lawsuit.

The class action lawsuit is being heard at the Hamm Higher Regional Court. If the court follows the consumer advocates, then Vodafone would have to pay back the monthly five euros plus interest. In addition, the price increase would be ineffective and would not have to be paid in the future as long as the contract remains unchanged.

There are no costs to anyone who joins the class action lawsuit. Not even in the event of defeat. It would be possible for Vodafone customers who join the lawsuit to terminate the contract. However, given the number of those affected, this is rather unlikely.

The company has remained silent about the extent of the price increases. It does not want to comment on a “pending procedure, also for competition reasons”. However, the Internet provider defends the new prices by saying that “the majority of German companies have increased their prices due to inflation”. In addition, the price increase was “moderate”. “We have included the legal requirements for this in our terms and conditions,” says Vodafone.

The VZBV is not only taking action against Vodafone. For example, he also considers the price increases by the sports streaming provider Dazn for existing customers from 2021 and 2022 to be illegal. In 2022 in particular, the monthly price for the subscription rose significantly from 14.99 to 29.99 euros. The Hamm Higher Regional Court has not yet accepted the class action lawsuit. Anyone who wants to take part can register for the VZBV’s “News Alert” and will be kept up to date by email.

Sources: VZBV, Vodafone