Automatic Contract Renewals in Germany

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I have seen a number of threads relating to specific cases of automatic renewal but, as I am going through a number of these right now, I thought a generalised thread to bring these together might be helpful / informative - particularly for those new to Germany.

 

One of the things that catches out many who are not used to German ways of doing things is the auto renewal of most contacts. Great & very helpful if your life is stable but really annoying if your requirements are likely to change.

 

As a general rule, unless you know otherwise, assume that any contract will auto renew. Also, as a general rule (except property rental), always cancel early (preferably the day you take the contract out). If you want to change your mind and renew, they will always be very happy to let you. They may even offer you incentives to change your mind.

 

Specific Items that I have come across :-

 

Mobile contact: There is a notice period (usually 3 months before renewal date). Always cancel before this and then wait for the offers to roll in.

Deutsche Telekom: They have a Call+ contract with 1 months notice

1&1 DSL: 1 year!!! notice from the time you contact them regardless of the aniversary of the contract. (they will give special dispensation if you prove you are leaving the country)

MVV Monthly Card Abo: minimum 3 months notice before the start of the next year (The MVV lady made sure I understood this when I took it out).

BahnCard: From other threads this seems to be 6 weeks before the renewal date

Car Insurance: Mine is 1 month before renewal. Can also be cancelled if you sell or change cars.

Other insurances: Various notice periods before renewal date but they all autorenew.

 

Can other TT's add other items to this list?

 

btw: It is not just Germany. I have similar (or even worse) experiences in Belgium & Holland

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Magazine subscriptions. They must be cancelled, I believe, 3 months before the end of the subscription, otherwise they will be renewed for a further year. Better to not take one out at all in my opinion, just buy them from the shop.

Gym club membership, again three months before the end of the contract.

 

When taking out any contract always ask to see the cancellation conditions in writing. Never take a salesmans word for anything, you'll have no proof of what was said when it comes time to cancel.

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Another one that occurs to me is memberships of Gyms, Sportsclubs (or, fact, any clubs) etc. I would guess the notice period varies but I would expect most would be 3 months before the annual renewal date.

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This auto-renewal is one of the biggest consumer scams around here. I signed a 2 year contract with Vodafone DSL in October 2011 which should be ending in October 2013. Being all cautious like, I sent the Kündigung last week. Now I got a call from some customer disservice drone saying but but but, since you moved your flat in July 2012 (in the same city barely 2 km across), the contract starts anew and will be over in October 2014.

 

How is this possible? Is this legal at all? I don't know what my options are. I am tempted to see if Verbraucherzentrale can help me.

 

Has this happened with anyone else as well?

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It's legal insomuch as you agreed to it when they reconfirmed the move in July 2012. Vodafone offer you the choice of continuing your old contract but paying a fee for the transfer and installation at your new home or to cancel your old contract and start a new one. Of course, the latter is the course of action they prefer, so how clear they make the options to you might be questionable, but legally at least, by not rejecting the confirmation when you received it you explicitly agreed to it. Their argument will be clear - they incurred additional costs in executing your move which they need to recover and they do this by starting a new contract into which you are tied for 2 years.

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I see. I guess if this was in the correspondence I received I must have missed it. Which would also mean I have no legal leg to stand on. I think I will go through the contract again and visit the Verbraucherzentrale just to be sure.

 

Thanks for the reply YorkshireLad6.

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Does the "cooling off" period also apply to contracts that have been automatically renewed?

I didn't receive a notice stating that the contract would renew, but I'm assuming they're not legally obligated to do so.

At any rate, do I have 14 days to cancel the contract or does that only apply to new contracts?

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Does the "cooling off" period also apply to contracts that have been automatically renewed?

No such luck. If you forget to cancel as many weeks beforehand as they specified in your contract, you are stuck for another year. You can however send the letter to cancel much earlier to make sure you don't forget. Just write that you want to cancel on the next possible date.

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I wonder if this thread can somehow be pinned?

 

Legal basis for renewable contract is §309 BGB Absatz 9. It forbids:

- initial contract duration for delivery of goods or services to be longer than 2 years (typical telecom contract duration in Germany);

- automatic renewal for longer than 1 year;

- cancellation notice to be earlier than 3 months before scheduled end of contract.

 

Everything else is decided by the forces of free market. The limits do not apply to insurance contracts.

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