The regulator has also ordered the termination of existing customer contracts. According to BNetzA, the offers violate net neutrality because they do not treat data traffic equally.
“We are ending the unequal treatment of data traffic associated with the zero-rating options,” said Klaus Müller, President of BNetzA. “We expect providers to now offer tariffs with higher data allowances or cheaper mobile flat-rate tariffs. Consumers will benefit from this.”
The European Court of Justice ruled on September 2, 2021 that the zero-rating options StreamOn of Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Pass are incompatible with the principle of equal treatment of data traffic. With zero-rating options, data traffic is treated differently as certain services and applications – unlike all other services and applications – are excluded from the data allowance, meaning that they can be used without limit.
According to the order of the Federal Network Agency, the marketing of StreamOn and Vodafone Pass must be discontinued by July 1, 2022. The two zero-rating options will then no longer be bookable via any sales channel. The telcos have until the end of March 2023 to discontinue the zero-rating options in the existing customer contracts. According to the regulator, this implementation period is necessary in view of the large number of existing customers and also to enable a consumer-friendly transition to other tariffs.
BNetzA assumes that the discontinuation of zero-rating options will have an overall positive effect on the German mobile network market. It is expected that the trend towards tariffs with higher data allowances and cheaper mobile flat-rates will accelerate. While flat-rates have been widespread in fixed network tariffs for some time, this has not yet been the case in mobile network market.
Vodafone Deutschland will not take legal action against the decision, a spokesman told Broadband TV News. “We are analysing the order of BNetzA regarding the suspension of Vodafone Pass and will subsequently inform about further steps.”
A Telekom spokesman said: “We very much regret the discontinuation of our zero-rating offer for around four million satisfied users and the nearly 500 StreamOn partners.” He added that Telekom is constantly optimising the customer experience, for example by granting data volumes free of charge or by permanently upgrading the data allowances of selected customer groups. Further measures are in preparation, according to the spokesman.