Saturday, January 26, 2013

Human Rights? Internet-Service?

There was an odd legal story out of Germany this week....that got twisted around (my humble opinion).

The base of the story?  A German guy goes and signs up for DSL-speed internet.  For a period of two months, this service was not provided....all due to the internet-provider....not the customer.  At the end of the day....the customer was charged for the service, and was not compensated for the two months of non-service.

Slowly....ever so slowly (one of the issues of the German court system)....this made its way around, and the company was declared in the in the wrong on this issue, and told to repay the guy (and court-costs).

A court spokesperson (not the judges) spoke to this issue on Channel One (ARD), and said in some words that internet was essential....thus getting 'status' for not being there when it was supposed to be there.  It's kind of like renting a car, it broke down ten minutes later on the road, and the rental company saying that they have no responsibility for anything.

My general understanding of German law is that once you sign a contract....everyone from the customer to the vendor....are stuck with what was written into the contract.  If you are stupid enough to sign up for insurance for your car....it won't go away with just a phone call to your insurance agent.....you have to sign papers to terminate the insurance.  The same thing goes for a warranty....if it says two years and you are on the next-to-last-day of that warranty, and the coffee machine breaks....the warranty is completely valid.

This guy signed the internet contract, and this company had a legit period of time to start up service.  They could have wasted a week and probably been in the right.  But once you went past a month of still no service.....you were putting your company into a legal bind.  After two months?  You should have stood up, offered compensation (of any variety), and avoided the court case.

What happens now?  Most all companies that deal with cellphone or internet coverage....will review their contracts, and ensure that there is a clause that gives them at least a couple of weeks in case problems develop.  They might write down some compensation deal....your money back for each month of non-service, etc.

As for the basic human right of internet that a number of American media folks have jumped on?  No.  No one in Germany today....has gained the basic human right of internet.  Internet providers still sell a service, and you have to cooperate with their rules.

The comical side of this suggestion of basic human rights....is that only around half of all German homes have a computer, and a connection to the internet.  It hasn't extended out greatly to the crowd who are over the age of fifty.

So before you get all excited over some great human rights in Germany....settle back and review the real story.  If you sell a service....you'd best provide it, or compensate the guy, end of the story.

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