Consumer contracts: how do I get out of my contract?

The law on fair consumer contracts leads to various improvements for consumers. In detail, this involves the extension of current obligations as well as the conclusion of contracts and advertising over the phone.

Regular contracts Delivery of goods or regular supply of services or works often set a minimum period. Which period is legally acceptable?

In the case of such contracts, such as those relating to membership in fitness studios, participation in dating sites, provision of Internet and mobile communications or magazine subscriptions, clauses binding on the consumer for a period of more than two years shall be void; shorter maturities are not criticisable. This is already the case.

What extension rules for contracts for regular supply of goods or regular supply of services or works are allowed?

Under the previous law, a contractual clause allowing for tacit extension of the contract by up to one year with a notice period of not more than three months before the expiry of the original and extended contract period was without objection.

It now applies that an implied extension of the contractual relationship can actually only be agreed if the extension is for an indefinite period of time, and the consumer can terminate the extended contractual relationship at any time with a notice of not more than one month. The maximum period for termination before the expiry of the original contract period is also only one month.

However, these statutory provisions, which are more favorable to consumers, apply only to contracts that were and will be concluded after 1 March 2022. For older contracts, the previous law applies. However, for contracts for telecommunications services (telephone, mobile phone, Internet), this also applies to older contracts (see the following explanations).

What applies to contracts for telecommunications services (telephone, mobile phone, internet)?

Since December 1, 2021, these contracts may be terminated at any time with one month’s notice after the minimum period, which may not exceed 24 months (Section 56 of the Telecommunications Act; information from the Federal Network Agency). Unlike other current obligations (subscriptions, energy supply contracts, fitness studios, partner exchanges, etc.), where this regulation only applies to contracts entered into from 1 March 2022 (see above), telecommunications contracts can also be terminated with a one-month notice period from 1 December 2021 is terminated in the case of old contracts entered into much earlier (and in a different legal situation).

How can you terminate ongoing commitments made online?

Contracts for recurring services can often be entered into very easily over the Internet, namely with a “click”. For the form of termination, on the other hand, the providers’ contractual relationship often places higher demands on the form of the declaration, which are not mandatory and make it more difficult for the consumer to dissolve the contractual relationship. For example, some contract clauses force the consumer to terminate the contractual relationship in writing, that is, by means of a signed letter.

In future, the consumer must have the opportunity to terminate a permanent contractual relationship established via the entrepreneur’s website, also via this website. The trader must provide the consumer with a cancellation button that is easy to read and must not be marked with anything other than the words “Undo contracts here” or with a corresponding clear wording.

By clicking on this button, the consumer is taken to a confirmation page where he can enter the information about the cancellation (contract number, cancellation date, etc.). This page should again contain a confirmation button that the consumer can opt out of, clearly marked with nothing but the words “cancel now” or other clear wording in that direction. This new regulation applies from 1 July 2022, also for contracts entered into before this date.

What can a consumer do if the trader does not provide the required cancellation and confirmation buttons on his website?

In this case, the consumer can terminate the agreement at any time and without meeting a notice period, for which the notice buttons and the confirmation page must be made available.

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