13

I am living in Rostock since June 2014. I am an Italian citizen working here as a consultant (but paid by an Italian company and paying taxes in Italy).

I am living in a (rented) furnished apartment, and soon after registering (Anmeldung) I started receiving bills from the ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice (formerly known as GEZ).

Now, I have two problems with it: first of all I don't speak German so I cannot really use their services. On top of that, I don't own a TV in Italy either, and as soon as I move to a non-furnished apartment (in two months) I will not buy neither a TV nor a Radio set. It's just stuff I don't use in my home country, either.

Is there any legal way to avoid paying for this or at least pay at a reduced rate (their site's FAQ seems to imply you can ask for exemption only if you are unemployed or have some physical handicap like being legally blind)?

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    As far as I know you have to pay regardless whether you use the TV/radio/internet or not. This was changed recently, where you could be exempt if you never used neither TV, nor radio nor the internet. – SztupY Jun 22 '15 at 8:58
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    I heard a rumor that this law is not long for this world. Anyone know anything about this? – fraxture Sep 18 '15 at 20:38
  • @fraxture maybe you should post a question? – p.marino Sep 19 '15 at 18:48
  • @fraxture that is only known by people from the future ... also, Switzerland has recently been following the German model, so it might become more common, not less – Chris Oct 1 '15 at 8:47
  • @p.marino for now your only opportunity to reduce costs would be to share an apartment (WG) ... – Chris Oct 1 '15 at 8:48
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No, you cannot avoid the licence fee because you don't want to watch TV.

The official website does not merely imply it but it states it pretty unambiguously, in German and in a few other languages too, including (broken) English:

A simple rule applies for all citizens since 2013: one residence - one fee. The licence fee is not linked to a broadcasting device: It is irrelevant how many TVs, radios or computers there are at a residence.

Some aspects of the translation (or even of the German version) are formulated a bit clumsily but you shouldn't over-interpret it, it's really as broad as it sounds. The legal basis for that is called the Rundfunkbeitragsstaatsvertrag and what it actually says is this

(1) Im privaten Bereich ist für jede Wohnung von deren Inhaber (Beitragsschuldner) ein Rundfunkbeitrag zu entrichten.

So it's one fee per apartment/dwelling, and the rest of text provides a very broad definition of an occupant (“Inhaber”), which covers anybody who is registered at this address or mentioned on the rental agreement.

If there was any ambiguity that this also covers non-nationals or people who are not subject to income tax, there is an article explicitly excluding diplomats (who would not need to be excluded if the text only covered German citizens or income tax payers because diplomats are neither).

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    Yes, I read this (after posting the question) - what I have an issue with is "a citizen", more than "number of TVs". I am not, currently, a German citizen - I don't pay taxes here, I do not vote etc. – p.marino Jun 22 '15 at 13:22
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    @p.marino There are several things wrong about this translation and even about the German-language version. It's not a “broadcasting device” but a “receiving device”. And it's not about “citizens” per se, it's per apartment/dwelling. So it covers everybody who is registered at the address or, if nobody is (e.g. vacation homes), the person mentioned on the rental agreement. – Gala Jun 22 '15 at 13:47
  • @p.marino I added some more details to my answer. But really there is no point in engaging in wilful thinking and trying to tear apart TV usage, citizenship, etc. The fee basis has deliberately been made very broad and pretty much unavoidable, with no reference to anything else than having an apartment. – Gala Jun 22 '15 at 13:56
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    @p.marino in the German, "Inhaber" denotes the person who owns, leases, or otherwise occupies the residence. "Beitragsschuldner" means "the person who owes the fee." There's no mention of citizenship. – phoog Jun 22 '15 at 14:41
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    It’s also not supposed to be a citizen (Staatsbürger) — the German text speaks about Einwohner (residents) as far as I can remember. – Jan Jun 13 '17 at 23:41
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It in considered a solidarity contribution to non political / commercial information services. Since you can also receive these on a computer, they are also available to you.

Recent court rulings have confirmed the legality of the changed law.

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Common sense says that you don't buy water or electricity at your rented or bought apartment or home in Germany. You buy information, entertainment, sports etc. which are intangible goods. And all those things you can buy from another European provider, the one that fits your needs (language or else) and wallet. See the case of Irish landlady Karen Murphy who lost her similar case at the Irish courts. She took her fight for the right to use a cheaper provider (a broadcast company from Greece!) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ruled in October 2011 that “having an exclusive system Iin Ireland, Germany or any European country that is) was contrary to EU law”. See the link, http://www.bbc.com/news/business-17150054. The moral of the story is find a cheaper one from the rest of the European countries that fits your needs/wallet, which I intend to do myself. Theo

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    a) I am not interested in pursuing this to the point of hiring a lawyer and push this to court. I am not familiar with Irish law (or German law) but I doubt this would be a simple matter to settle. b) to me the provider that better caters for my needs would be: none at all. I did not own a TV in Italy and I don't need one in Germany. – p.marino Jul 4 '16 at 11:43
  • That's about pay TV, not mandatory contributions/taxes funding public broadcasting. I seriously doubt the ECJ would go on that territory. – Gala Jul 5 '16 at 8:38
  • Agreed - we are not talking of domething you buy - see my comment above. – p.marino Jul 6 '16 at 22:15
  • +1, please keep us informed. I for one resent having to pay for unwanted government propoganda. – newenglander Jun 12 '17 at 22:52
  • In legal terms, the Rundfunkbeitrag is not a price you pay but a resident’s contribution. And that closes the can of worms you intend to open entirely. – Jan Jun 13 '17 at 23:43

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