Yesterday, the Court of Justice of the EU handed down its judgment in the Austrian case of Verein für Konsumenteninformation v A1 Telekom Austria AG. The case concerns an action brought by the Austrian consumer association (VK) regarding standard terms used by A1 Telekom. VK submitted that these terms were not in line with EU consumer law, insofar as they stipulated that A1 Telekom's customers were not allowed to withdraw from their contracts in case charges were modified in accordance with an annual consumer price index made by the Austrian Institute for Statistics.
As we reported earlier, Advocate General Cruz Villalón concluded that this type of price adjustment clause did not necessarily imply a modification of contractual conditions under the EU's Universal Service Directive, ‘in so far as the statement of the consideration payable by the subscriber as the ‘index-linked price’ is sufficiently foreseeable, transparent and legally certain to support the conclusion that there has been no change in the subscriber’s contractual position’. According to the Advocate General, the national court would have to assess whether these conditions were met.
The CJEU follows AG Cruz's Opinion and holds that:
'Article 20(2) of Directive 2002/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive), as amended by Directive 2009/136/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009, must be interpreted as meaning that a change in charges for the provision of electronic communications networks or services, resulting from the operation of a price adjustment clause contained in the standard terms and conditions applied by an undertaking providing such services, the term providing that such a change applies in accordance with changes in an objective consumer price index compiled by a public institution, does not constitute a ‘modification to the contractual conditions’ within the meaning of that provision, which grants the subscriber the right to withdraw from the contract without penalty.'