Not long after you move to Germany, you’ll probably start craving the comforts of home. Internet, a mobile phone, maybe even a gym membership. Signing up for the latest shiny deal is usually easy enough: salespeople will fall at your feet, even with limited German. Here’s what you need to know about getting out of German contracts.
Contracts for service providers (gas, electricity, internet, phone) and subscriptions known as Abonnement or Abos (such as gym memberships, newspapers and magazines, Bahn Cards) in Germany tend to be valid for fixed periods, such as 1, 12 or 24 months. The catch though, is that most contracts in Germany also include a tricky clause that automatically renews the agreement once that time period is up. This is becoming more common around the world, but if you’re from a part of the planet where it is not common practice, it’s a nasty surprise.
If you’ve spent the last few months cursing your mobile phone provider (now, haven’t we all!) and waiting impatiently for the end date of the contract so that you can shop around, you may instead be appalled to receive a letter congratulating you on your choice to continue with them for another 24 months.
To avoid unpleasant surprises like this, you’ll need to master the art of the German Kündigungsbrief (notice of termination). This letter needs to quote all your contract details and the date you’d like to cancel it (kündigen). You can either find a form letter online and fill in the blanks, or you can ask Red Tape Translation to prepare one for you – it’s quick and easy to customise.
Before writing your letter, check your contract and find the terms of your notice period (Kündigungsfrist). This clause will mention the length of the notice period eg: 30 days, 1 full calendar month or 3 calendar months. 1-3 months is fairly standard for telephone and internet contracts and gym memberships.
Your contract might include a reference to another date such as the “contract end date” (Vertragsende) or the “end of the month” (Monatsende). Even if you signed up on the 8th of the month, you might still have to send your cancellation letter before the 31st. If you’re having trouble unravelling the legalese, let us know!
If you’re ending the contract because of a move away from Germany, you’ll need to prove you’re actually leaving to get out of your contract straight away. Red Tape Translation can help you wrap up your affairs in Germany neatly if you’re making the big move overseas.
Finally, request written confirmation of your cancellation within 14 days. The letter must include your original, handwritten signature (sadly, a digital signature usually doesn’t cut it!).
HOT TIP: there’s a cheap and easy way to make sure your letter reaches its recipient! Registered post (Einschreiben) allows you to track the sending online and gives you a reference number. You can choose whether the recipient has to sign for it or not. It’s easy enough for a corporation to claim they never received your cancellation if there’s no written proof, so the few Euros and the trip to the post office are definitely worth it.