Last week a case went before the court in Germany, where a German company was suing a webshop. The customer service of the webshop in question could only be reached via a paid telephone number. The German creditor found these charges unfair. The case resulted in a ruling by the European Court of Justice: the customer service of organizations must be reachable against the standard costs (not more than the base rate).
Why this decision?
The European Court of Justice believes that citizens should be provided with information without having to pay additional call charges when they have purchased a product, have questions about warranty or want to cancel a subscription. This is in line with the directive on consumer rights in Europe.
What is the base rate?
The base rate is equal to the standard charges that apply to calling a standard landline or mobile phone number.
The consequences for Dutch organizations
At present, Dutch organizations with a customer service purpose can charge up to €1 per call, in addition to the usual call charges. This regulation is currently reviewed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Most likely the European Union will issue a general directive stipulating that the standard call rate shall apply. If that doesn’t happen, each Member State will have to adjust its rules individually in any case, so that the rights of the European consumer are no longer infringed.
Call charges but no earnings model?
European courts have made it clear that it makes no difference whether or not an organization is making any money from the call charges paid by the caller. For example, companies that use a 0900 number call charge to create a minor calling threshold in order to prevent unwanted phone calls will also be forced to change the rate.
When should Dutch organizations take action?
Currently, the Dutch customer service federation KSF is investigating what consequences the decisions will have for Dutch businesses. The case is being studied, but it is really too early to make any statements about the consequences in the Netherlands. KSF is maintaining close contact with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and will inform its members, including ContactCare, about the developments. As a reader or customer with a service number we will obviously keep you posted.