Are tarot card hotlines legitimate?

Expensive numbers: 0900 rip-offs on many customer hotlines

Many companies let their customers wait a long time on the hotline - in order to rip off expensive 0900 numbers. Consumer advice centers and the Greens in the Bundestag have found that out.

In the second and third week of December, employees of the Green parliamentary group - not at the expense of the Bundestag - made around 300 test calls to 50 different providers with 0900 numbers, mainly from the DSL, cell phone, airline and general advisory services sectors. 0900 numbers incur costs of up to three euros per minute.

The result of the test was sobering: of the 50 tested numbers, the test callers at 15 providers waited on average for more than a minute, music in the background, and repeated requests from the tape not to hang up and wait for the next one Service space is free.

According to the Baden-Württemberg Green MP Kotting-Uhls, DSL provider 1 & 1 had the negative peak value - with 23 minutes of waiting time. Not an isolated case, another time the Greens waited at 1 & 1 16.95 minutes and a third time 11.30 minutes.

"With almost 30 percent of the tested providers from the various industries, expensive queues seem to be part of the business model," complains Sylvia Kotting-Uhl.

The Greens "T-mobile", "Deutsche Telekom" and "freenet" noticed positively, where the callers only had to wait a few seconds until they had an advisor on the other end of the line.

With the low-cost airlines, "Easyjet" in particular let customers fidget for a particularly long time, an average of two minutes (with ten calls). Competitor "Ryanair" once put the customers to the longest test of patience with 7.36 minutes. According to Kotting-Uhl's findings, however, the smaller providers in the area of ​​"general advice" such as hotlines for legal advice, dog training, astrological predictions or tarot card laying are true "rip-offs", so the provider "Tarot King" demands a call of 1.86 euros per minute makes a whopping 13 euros if you wait seven minutes.

According to the Federal Network Agency, there are around 86,000 0900 numbers nationwide, and around 170 numbers were switched off due to abuse last year. There is a statutory upper price limit of three euros per minute for the chargeable hotlines; the call is automatically disconnected after one hour of waiting.

For the Karlsruhe Green MPs, however, these regulations do not go far enough, as they do not adequately protect the consumer. She demands that consumers only have to pay when they actually have an advisor on the other end of the line. It would be even better, according to Kotting-Uhl, if the companies would set up free 08000 numbers for their hotlines or 0180 numbers, which are much cheaper for callers.

The consumer advice centers also warned of high costs for customer hotlines. The voluntary commitment of the telecommunications industry given by the federal government two years ago "did not bring the hoped-for success," said Christian Fronczak, spokesman for the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations, the "Frankfurter Rundschau". In principle, costs should only arise when consumers actually speak to an advisor.

The voluntary commitment requires clear information about the costs and the waiver of fees for holding loops. However, the telecommunications industry had pointed out technical difficulties. It is not easily possible to differentiate between a free and a chargeable part of a call.