Federal Network Agency
Complaints about annoying sales calls are peaking
Interested in a competition? Or: Aren’t you underinsured? And isn’t your current electricity contract much too expensive? Such advertising calls are often annoying – and are sometimes a misdemeanor.
According to statistics, advertising calls have never caused as much trouble in Germany as they did last year.
The Federal Network Agency received 79,702 complaints about unauthorized telephone advertising, a quarter (26 percent) more than in the previous year, as the Bonn authority announced on Friday. The previous high of 63,273 complaints was recorded in 2020. The unwanted calls were about insurance, financial products and energy contracts. Advertising for sweepstakes and magazine subscriptions also annoyed consumers.
Telephone advertising is only allowed if consumers have given their prior consent. The number must be transmitted. The Federal Network Agency investigates the complaints and imposes fines if necessary. Last year, companies were awarded a total of 1.435 million euros, which was 84,000 euros more than in 2020.
In the future, the advertising companies can be asked to pay even more than before, since the range of fines in December 2021 in the case of suppressed phone numbers increased from a maximum of 10,000 euros to now 300,000 euros. Calls without a number on the display were particularly frequent in the past year – the impending fines are now being countered more strongly. It was also noticeable that some advertisers used different phone numbers.
Authorities chief Jochen Homann emphasized that the perpetrators would be pursued again this year “with all the means available to us”. “We continue to take vigorous action against the companies that operate unauthorized telephone solicitations.” Advertising calls with a suppressed number are “unacceptable”.
In the past year, the authority had registered significantly more complaints. Before that, however, there had been a decline in critical statements – so the trend is not very clear. In any case, the number of complaints is only an indication of problems. Because the increase may be at least partly due to the fact that the possibility of complaining to the Federal Network Agency has become better known – many consumers were probably annoyed before, but only now are they reporting to the Bonn authority.
In politics, the number of complaints was noted with concern. The FDP member of parliament Reinhard Houben pointed out that the illegal advertising calls were often made to landline numbers that are in the telephone book. “This is a big problem for older people who still use their landline phones a lot.” He appealed to the network agency to act with all severity against the companies. The possibilities provided for by the tightened law “should also lead to significantly higher fines this year if the intrusive advertising companies should simply continue as before”. The unauthorized phone calls are “a major annoyance, the cause of which must be consistently combated”.
The Federal Network Agency had also registered an increasing number of complaints about another type of unwanted contact. Last year, for example, this involved fax advertising for corona tests and masks as well as fraudulent SMS with the “smishing” scam, in which consumers are supposed to be tricked into clicking on a link and then unknowingly downloading malware . The Federal Network Agency reacted and, among other things, had 1110 numbers switched off because of abuse.