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Broadcasting fees unfair?28th of April 2014
Thomas Schulte-Marxloh in Germany explains how broadcasting fees are impacting on the industry.
Since the reform of the public service broadcasting fees in 2013, a number of lawsuits have been filed against the new regulation. The fee has to be paid by every household or company, whether a receiver (TV set, radio, computer or smart phone) is used. Before the reform each user of public broadcasting had to have their receiving devices registered which had to be paid individually.
The high number of TV licence dodgers however – not just private individuals but also companies – was the motivation behind the reform. Today private individuals have to pay for each place of residence; companies have to pay for each store, office or car and, additionally, for their staff.
As a result, these companies have to pay significantly increased fees today - a perfumery chain, for example, which formerly paid 70,000 euros has to pay 393,000 euro now; another chain has to pay 1.5 million euros today instead of 330,000 euros before the reform; DB-Netz, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn paid 26,000 euros before, today 472,000 euros are due.
Recently the contract cleaning industry went to court, too, believing the new regulations violate the principle of equality and are not consistent with the constitution. The representative action is supported by the contract cleaning guild of North-Rhine Westphalia.
As the new fees for public broadcasting by companies depend on the number of facilities the company has, as well as the number of employees and cars, the personnel-intensive contract cleaning business is very much affected. The claimants’ solicitor, Prof Dr Susanne Walther, explains: “Our clients have to suffer a severe disadvantage because the comparatively high number of part-time workers, common for the service and contract cleaning industry, increases the mere number of staff members, of course; this has not been taken into consideration. On account of a missing proportional consideration of part-time workers our clients are discriminated against. This violates the equality principle article 3, paragraph 1 of the constitution”.
Furthermore Prof Dr Walther points out that the new fees constitute a new ‘tax’ rather than a ‘fee’ because they are not paid for goods and services; instead the fees mean a global payment not correlating to actual usage. The constitution, however, does not justify such a tax or a legal reason to introduce it. Therefore, she says, when looking at the contract cleaning business, the new fees violate the constitution twice.
The contact cleaning industry, like many other companies, institutions or local administrations, is calling for a correction of the new fees which discriminate against certain business sectors and municipal administrations.
Several administration courts in several federal states have heard a number of cases initiated by private persons, associations, administrations and companies for several reasons.
One of Germany’s biggest chemist’s chain, for instance, as well as a huge rental car company hired several experts to present their legal opinion recently. So far all of the administration courts had no objection to the new structure of fees; let’s see if the contract cleaning industry can sweep it away...