On January 29, 2009, the German Federal Network Agency (the “Agency”) stated in a press release that it has imposed fines for unauthorized telephone advertising in six cases. This brings the total to nine procedures (resulting in €500,000 in fines) during the months of December 2009 and January 2010, and marks the first time the Agency has imposed sanctions for violations of the prohibition on unauthorized telephone advertising and for breach of the caller ID requirement for marketing calls.
Since amendments to the Law against Unfair Competition and the Telecommunications Act came into force on August 4, 2009, marketing calls made without the consent of the recipient, or made using masked or suppressed numbers, are considered misdemeanors. The calls at issue, which concerned a variety of services and products related to telecommunications, media and lottery winnings, resulted in fines against both the company that hired the call center as well as the call center that executed the calls. The Unfair Competition Act authorizes the Agency to impose fines of up to €50,000 for violations of the telemarketing prohibitions. The current penalty decisions were the result of lengthy investigation work.
In addition, the Agency imposed fines pursuant to the prohibition on suppressing caller identification when making marketing calls. The Agency is authorized to impose fines of up to €10,000 for violations of this type. Fines may be imposed both in cases where the telephone number of the call center is not displayed, or where a false or misleading number is displayed, because both scenarios disguise the caller’s true identity and may be deceptive to recipients.