The law against illicit telephone advertising and for improving consumer protection with respect to specific modes of distribution, which was passed by the federal government in July 2008, was approved by the Lower House of the Federal Parliament in March and by the Upper House on May 15, 2009. Once the law has been published in the Federal Gazette, it will soon enter into force.

With this law, consumers should be better protected than before against unwanted telephone advertising. While advertising by telephone to consumers without permission has been unfair competition according to Sec. 7 subs. 2 no. 2 of the Act Against Unfair Competition, this will now be the case already if there is no “prior express” consent by the respective consumer. What is more, a new Sec. 20 will be introduced in the Act Against Unfair Competition, according to which a violation will carry a fine of up to €50,000 that may be imposed by the Federal Authority of Telecommunications and Transportation Networks.

Furthermore, the law contains amendments to the Telecommunications Act, according to which call centers may no longer call without caller identification. If they do, they will risk a fine of up to €10,000.

In addition, the law provides for changes to the German Civil Code concerning distance contracts. In the future, consumers will have a revocation right also for newspaper and magazine subscription agreements concluded by telephone, as well as for betting and lottery agreements concluded by telephone. Finally, the inducement to change providers by telephone will be made more difficult. The new Sec. 312f of the Civil Code will provide that termination of the existing agreement upon conclusion of a new agreement with a new provider will require written form.

From a consumer’s perspective, this law is positive. Doing business will become more difficult for call centers. It remains to be seen how efficiently the authorities will apply the new provisions and impose fines. In the past, infringements of Sec. 7 of the Act Against Unfair Competition often remained without consequences.