With its latest ruling on the subject of “Internet use and its significance in everyday life”, the Federal Court of Justice has set the course for a number of further discussions.

“The Internet and access to its diverse content are of central importance for the standard of living”, is how the decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Germany can be briefly summarised, which was recently made. A gentleman had complained here, who had the problem after a tariff change, which many Internet users have in such cases: by responsibility confusion and various mishaps he had to do without the Internet for two months (at least, if it went around the entrance by its Provider). The plaintiff also used his Internet access for fax and telephone communication. He finally switched to another provider, which entailed additional costs, and he also used a mobile phone to compensate for the failure of the telephone. For all these additional costs, the plaintiff applied for a refund, but in addition, he wanted to obtain damages amounting to 50 euros per day.

The BGH now decided that the defective or missing possibility of sending a fax does not lead to claims for damages since this merely replaces the possibility of sending a document by post. Although the pace of communication differs here, a discontinuation of this possibility has no significant effect. The BGH clearly pointed out that the fax continues to lose importance, since the transmission of documents, pictures etc. takes place increasingly by electronic post.

Also with the telephone entrance the plaintiff failed – however not because the BGH regarded the telephone as unimportant, but rather on the reason that by the refund of the portable radio fees, which resulted instead of fixed net fees, since the fixed network connection could not be used, another possibility was available to the plaintiff to obtain for the damage resulted from compensation.

But the situation was different with Internet access.

The central importance of the Internet for a self-sufficient standard of living
The Federal Supreme Court decided that access to the Internet was of central importance for the self-economic standard of living.

ALG II and the Internet
The question of whether an Internet-enabled computer and Internet access for ALG II recipients must be financed by the state is a question that has been discussed for a long time. It was not until 2010 that the Bavarian State Social Court ruled on a loan for the procurement of an Internet-capable computer:

It would be sensible and desirable to be able to use one’s own PC for job search, but no circumstances are apparent which could make this a necessary integration benefit (cf. wording § 3 Paragraph 1 S. 1 and § 14 S. 3 SGB II). If the complainant wishes to purchase a personal computer, he must save this out of a standard benefit. It is not an undeniable need for existence in the sense of § 23 Abs. 1 SGB II.

The plaintiff had applied for a loan in the amount of 300 euros on the grounds that an Internet-enabled PC was necessary so that he could use it for letters of application, job searches, and online applications. The court clearly rejected this request, although the reality shows that, for example, the employment agencies also assume that it is a matter of course for ALG II recipients or potential ALG II recipients to have a PC and Internet access. They also assume that job seekers are familiar with current job exchanges. The employment agency had objected that the plaintiff could also look for a job on their premises and apply.

The state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also agreed that an Internet-enabled computer was not part of the socio-cultural subsistence level, and replied accordingly to a small request from the Left Party. The party had criticized that in times when the Internet is part of everyday life, the ALG II standard rate would only provide around 3 euros per month for an Internet connection and just under 4 euros for a PC and software. Of course, those who still have assets can afford a cheap PC with Internet access, if necessary, but once the assets have been used up, the rejection of the courts means that it is only possible to maintain Internet access if, for example, repairs to the PC or even the need for a new purchase should arise. It should be mentioned here that it is generally assumed that the standard rate also contains a certain savings amount, which is also necessary for the purchase of e.g. new household appliances etc. since this is no longer borne by the payer.

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