Media Law

Sixt to battle new German TV licence fee

After receiving a bill for 717,000 euros for the first quarter of 2013, the vehicle rental company Sixt is to pursue a claim in the German courts against the new TV licence fee model. Sixt described the new model in a blog entry as “fee madness”.

Sixt to battle new German TV licence fee © Africa Studio - Fotolia.com

Sixt to battle new German TV licence fee © Africa Studio – Fotolia.com

German TV licence fee

The new TV licence fee in Germany is causing controversy. The new model is calculated per household, even if the occupants do not own a TV or radio.

The fee for businesses is calculated based on the number of employees per premises, and an extra fee is payable for each commercial vehicle.

After receiving a first quarter bill for its car rental arm of 718,000 euros for 2013, Sixt has announced it is preparing court action.

The company predicts that the amount payable will be higher in the second and third quarters during the high-season.

Annual projections show that the company could be facing a TV licence fee of over 3 million euros – an amount which the company believes is much too high.

Legal challenge

The rental service announced it is preparing a claim in Munch’s administrative court against Bayern Broadcasting Corporation. The press release states that the company is prepared to take the case right up to Germany’s constitutional court if necessary. The announcement follows concerns made public by the company three years ago about the legality of the new TV licence fee model.

€5.99 per vehicle

Under the new scheme, €5.99 is charged for every commercial vehicle used by a company. Sixt provided details of some 40,000 vehicles in use in Germany.

Furthermore, businesses are required to pay an additional amount based on the number of premises it owns and the number of employees at each of those premises. This portion of the fee is collected whether or not the premises own a TV or radio, a point made very clear by Sixt which states that none of its several hundred rental desks are equipped with TV or radio.

The company predicts that the new licence fee model will lead to an increased financial burden rather than reducing it.

Unsuccessful TV licence fee reform

Sixt SE Chief executive, Erich Sixt, stated, “The amount the Bayern Broadcasting Corporation is demanding must be the highest any broadcasting corporation has ever charged for a quarter.”

“In my view, the unsuccessful licence fee reform has led to an increased financial and administrative burden and cements the view of unfairness.”

“The customers who rent our vehicles are private individuals who already pay a licence fee. It is therefore high time to have this fee madness legally scrutinised.”

Disputed claims

Bayern’s Broadcasting Corporation disputes the accusations made by Sixt, claiming the company would in fact have to pay less in 2013 than the year before.

The Broadcasting Corporation clarifies that after making adjustments for the company’s reduced fleet in 2013, Sixt would in fact make savings of around €11,000 euros as a result of the new licence fee model.

Constitutional challenge

ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio the broadcasters which run the licence fee service believe that the new licence fee model is constitutionally acceptable.

However, they accept that if particular stakeholders are placed under an excessive burden (for example due to the calculation being based on the number of business premises), there is a societal interest of having the Inter-State Licence Fee Agreement evaluated, and if necessary amended by parliament.

Rossmann also brings court action

After its fees rose by 500%, the chemist chain Rossmann also brought a court action against the new TV licence fee model. The Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung reports that the chain would have to pay 200,000 euros per year as opposed to 40,000.

The current affairs magazine, Focus, reported recently that the tax law expert, Thomas Koblenzer, plans to bring a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a Munich-based client. Koblenzer claims that the new TV licence fee breaches citizen’s rights to act in accordance with their free will.

Rafaela Wilde is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE.

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