Relocating Your Telecommunications in Germany

When moving not only leaving the old home to enter a new home can ruin your nerves, but also having the telecommunications be correctly ported is a hassle. Problems like downtime, waiting time, surprisingly low transmission rates, not receiving one’s phone number are nothing special at all. Special frustration comes with ultra long periods for giving notice. The goodwill of the losing provider is hardly known. Careful planning can save a lot of trouble and money.

Wanting to save costs, Alice decided to move away from Chris to share an apartment with other folks (Wohngemeinschaft). She cancelled her DSL because she was planning to share the line and costs in the new apartment. What she did not know was that her recently signed contract had a minimum time of two years. No amount of pleading would have helped. Anyhow, it is legally irrelevant that you are not receiving any services. As the Romans already said, “pacta sunt servanda”, contracts are to be kept.

1. General Legal Understanding

As the providers understand it, the customer is closing a contract for a certain location and certain period. It has been reported that some companies will exempt you from the contract when you pay a fee but better not rely on that. When you move without wanting to switch providers, then usually the provider will not make any real problems.

But what happens, when you move with switching and at the new location, you do not have DSL? Then you can only hope for the goodwill of the provider. In most cases, you will be let out of the contract.  Sure you can fight in court, but the chances are slim that you will win because the provider’s arguments are usually deciding. The financial scope for the provider is thin, if you can believe their utterances. High investments and subsidized products are only profitable when the customer really remains a steady customer.

2.  Contracting out your Momentary Provider

When studying your contract, you find out that are still stuck for a year or more. Is there really no way to contract out? The main legal and practically accepted reason will be an “Act of God”. When you claim to move abroad then be sure to be able to present them your deregistration at the police (polizeiliche Abmeldung) or new labor contract or special assignment or whatever proof! Usually, that will persuade them.

But even when you can persuade them, you might have to give into a “cancellation fee (Kündigungsgebühr)”. In the case you are to return the given hardware be sure to be able to prove that you sent and they received it. Best would be a registered (small) parcel. No, this is not really paranoia but just insurance as such complaints are known. Another trick for more turnover is to let the contract start anew after relocating. The reason for this trick is because switching off and switching on costs a lot.

Most providers will tie you in for two years. So when you can foresee that you might possibly be moving in around a year better take a provider that has a short enough notification period. How to find this period? Study the standard terms and condition and search for the word “Kündigung (cancellation)”.

3.  Correctly Applying

Complications grow exponentially when you want to move with your DSL. All providers require at least four to six weeks – the earlier the better. Do fill out the relocation form very accurately! Often providers have to battle wrong or missing details. Not only are the name and number of the previous tenant to be mentioned but also the exact location of the apartment.

The more details provided, the less chance the provider will have to goof up the move. When possible tell your provider when the line in the new address will be switched off. It is always vital to tell the provider which floor and side of a building it is on. This can be turn out to be – culturally – tricky for expats!

Floors are counted differently in Germany. When you walk into a building, you are on “ground floor (Erdgeschoß)” or “0”. Going up one floor, you have entered “first floor (erster [Ober]geschoß = erste Etage = erster Stock[werk])” or “1” and so on. Even most Germans do not know how to correctly determine if right or left hand side. It is not done when coming up the stairs but when standing in front of the house and looking at it. If you can supply more details than legibly fit into the form then refer in bold print to an extra sheet, “s. Extrablatt”.

4.  The Day of Switching

Make sure that at the day of switching on your line, your name is on the bell of your apartment’s and house’s door. It sometimes happens that the technician did not come on the appointed day. Best reason will be that everything could be turned on without “having to disturb you”. Check out if your phone is working. Sometimes you will find a message in your mailbox, even though you did not leave your apartment the whole day while waiting for him. Call your provider ASAP and demand a new date. When you give him a reasonable period for the new appointment, then best get in writing or per eMail that you have evidence should it later come to a case in court or for claiming damages.

If the technician does not find you with ease, he will not search for you but will immediately leave! (This is their typical behavior and by no means expat related!) Add as the phone your cell phone number so, that the technician can reliably get a hold of you. Oops, you came five minutes too late and the technician left a note that you were to call a certain number? This slip will forfeit the punctuality of the switch. Don’t reckon he will come again tomorrow – a week is more realistic.

5.  Keeping your Phone Number

Customers usually have the right to take their previous number to their new address – porting (Portierung). However, this will only be possible when you do not leave your current city code area. City codes are such as “030” for Berlin or “0551” for Göttingen – cell phones (01??) do not have this restriction. When moving to another city, you will loose your number. So, if staying in the same area code, make sure your porting of your number is explicitly agreed to because the new provider has no statutory duty to take your number. Do not misunderstand the above, this is no problem and seldom is, but do it just to make sure.

When receiving the order confirmation, painstakingly and exactly study the details. When moving with different numbers, especially those originally not from that provider, it can easily happen that these get “lost”. It does not suffice to just edit the form and fax it back! Many providers overlook such details. A better strategy is to contact the hotline, that they immediately add the missing numbers. Afterwards demand a confirmation of the changes in writing.

In the case, that porting your number does not work, urgency is the name of the game. Numbers are definitely lost within few weeks and cannot be reallocated to you anymore. Whoever would like to avoid the lunacy when switching providers in the future, ought to change to a pure VoIP provider and let the number remain there. Be sure to let your new VoIP provider cancel the current contract.  Whoever hides the move to another town from his VoIP provider will have practically taken his number with him. However, when the provider finds out you have permanently lost your number. By statute, every phone provider is to obliged to delete such a number which is inconsistent with its physical address. The only way to save the number will be to assign it to friends or family members.

6.  Low Data Flow Through

Relatively new is the problem, that after relocating and /or switching providers, that you all of a sudden have only a few hundred kBit/s instead of 16 MBit as previously. This goes back to the fact, that Telekom is expanding its decentralized net and is permanently installing new junction boxes. When such boxes are only a few hundred meters from your home but the box of their competitor many kilometers away, this will lead to a dramatic decrease in bandwidth. In individual cases, your DSL will not work anymore. When this is the case, you should demand from your provider that the DSL line come from Telekom. Why Telekom? Telekom is the now private and former state phone provider in Germany. When this does not work then consider extraordinarily terminating your contract.

The day of switching your line is over and no technician gave you a call or rang your bell? That is normal, too. Is your line working? When yes, then the technician was too lazy to inform you. This is “normal” and not anything typically against an expat.

Additional information