HUF 10 million penalty imposed on Canal+ offering Direct One services

Published: 10 March 2022

Based on its investigation carried out in several phases the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) imposed a penalty of HUF 10 million on Canal+ Luxembourg for the non-compliant amendment of their GTC affecting the content of its broadcast package and the omission of important elements of the related subscriber notification. In addition, in the procedure, which was closed recently, the authority mandated the service provider to repay almost HUF 1.5 million for its subscribers for irregularly charged “penalty”. In the notification about the amendment subscribers did not receive adequate information, so they were not able to exercise their right of cancellation without legal consequences as the service provider terminated the broadcast of certain television channels in a manner that did not allow for the subscribers to notice the disadvantageous change during the notice period. The amendment of the GTC affected more than 200,000 subscribers. The service provider must repay a total of almost HUF 1.5 million to the almost one hundred subscribers who cancelled their contract after the 45-day deadline.

In November 2020, Canal+ amended its GTC (General Terms and Conditions) with regard to the television channels it offered: it created “guaranteed” and “not guaranteed” channel categories with the provision that it cannot guarantee keeping the channels of the latter on its list. The service provider notified its subscribers about the fact in October 2020 and informed them about their right to cancel without legal consequences within 45 days. However, it did not provide information on certain important elements such as the fact that the number of available channels will reduce, and it also failed to indicate which channels will be classified as “guaranteed” and “not guaranteed”. With this the service provider failed to notify subscribers about information of fundamental importance which could have allowed them to make informed, conscious decisions about the unilateral contract amendment. This way subscribers did not have the opportunity to exercise their basic right to cancel the contract without legal consequences within 45 days from the notification. Based on its investigation last year, NMHH also established that at the time of the unilateral amendment of the contract the service provider referred to a material change unforeseeable at the time of the conclusion of the contract and to the contractual relationship without justification, i.e. the amendment was made without a legal basis. The decision of the second instance corroborated the decision of the authority, sot it is final.

Nearly 500 subscribers initiated the cancellation of the contract after learning about the actual changes

From 1 January 2021 the service provider terminated the broadcast of 17 out of 37 channels in the channel category “not guaranteed”. As a consequence, 473 subscribers initiated the cancellation of their subscriber contracts until 31 March 2021. Following this, 96 subscriber contracts were indeed cancelled, and as a legal consequence, the service provider charged a total of more than HUF 1.5 million for the early termination of the fixed-term subscriber contracts. 104 subscriber contracts were not terminated because the subscriber accepted the discount offered by the service provider. In 273 cases the subscribers withdrew the cancellation because of the indicated legal consequence, i.e. having to repay the applied discounts. Therefore, in the second phase of the investigation the authority obligated the service provider to repay the “penalty” unlawfully charged to its former subscribers, and notify them and any subscribers who withdrew their cancellation that they were treated wrongfully. The decision is not final, the service provider may still lodge an appeal.

Regulations changed significantly by now 

The authority established the sanctions based on the previous regulations as the infringement occurred before the introduction of new regulations on 30 June last year. Based on the new provisions, service providers have greater freedom to amend contracts unilaterally. By contrast, subscribers can cancel a contract within 45 days, not only if it has become unfavourable to them, but also in the event of any substantial modification, without legal consequences. They are entitled to this even if the contract was concluded for a fixed term in exchange for a discount. Subscribers may not exercise their right to cancel the contract if the amendment results from a legal obligation of the service provider, or is based on a decision by a public authority, or if the change is only beneficial for the subscriber, or if it is administrative in nature and has no negative effect on the subscriber.

The requirements for the notification about the contract amendment is regulated in detail by the new regulation as well, therefore it is highly important, that the subscribers as informed consumers are thoroughly familiar with the information in the notification.