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Disclosure of customer data: lawsuit against Vodafone, Telekom and Telefónica

Disclosure of customer data: lawsuit against Vodafone, Telekom and Telefónica

Status: 07/21/2022 13:39

The consumer advice center NRW has sued three mobile phone providers. The allegation: Corporations passed the data of reputable customers to credit bureaus like Schufa without being asked.

This is the data of reputable customers, which is passed on to credit bureaus like Schufa without being asked. That is why the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice center has now sued Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica. Through the investigation of NDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” the practice of mobile phone providers was made public last fall. Schufa & Co. uses such data to assess the creditworthiness of consumers.

According to the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia, mobile phone providers are violating the General Data Protection Regulation and must refrain from doing so. “Credit bureaus also collect information on consumers when they have behaved correctly and in accordance with the contract,” criticizes Wolfgang Schuldzinski, head of the NRW consumer advice center. “However, protecting consumers affected by excessive processing of their personal data outweighs the economic interests of companies.”

Mobile phone providers have previously stated that they do not share the legal opinion of data protectors and consumers. A transfer of customer data is in the “legitimate interest” of the company. However, Telekom spokesman Husam Azrak has now said that his company stopped transmitting such customer data at the beginning of the year.

Positive data also contains sensitive information

Positive data is information that does not contain negative payment experiences or other non-contractual behavior. The subject of positive data transmitted is often when a contract was concluded with whom. The person in question was not guilty of anything. This distinguishes positive data from so-called negative data, such as information that an invoice has not been paid.

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However, positive data also contains sensitive information. “The transmission of positive data may seem harmless at first glance, but companies can use any information about consumers to make tangible decisions,” explains Schuldzinski. “A person who has multiple cell phone contracts or changes them frequently may be considered less reliable and therefore not receive a contract, even if all bills have been paid on time.”

No data without consent

“The transmission of positive data is not allowed without the consent of the consumer,” Schuldzinski emphasizes. “Even with consent, companies need to provide transparent information and consumers need to be able to decline consent without disadvantage.”

The NRW consumer advice center is not alone in criticizing data transmission. In a joint decision, the conference of independent federal and state government data protection supervisory authorities also took a critical stance on the processing of positive data by mobile phone providers.

Get free information

At least once a calendar year, consumers can receive free information about their own profile maintained by a credit bureau. Incorrect information must be corrected by the credit bureaus. “Consumers should exercise their right to regularly ask credit bureaus what personal data is stored there, for what purpose, where it came from and to whom it is being passed on,” advises Schuldzinski.

Editor’s note: The third paragraph was added after the publication of the text and reflects the position of the mobile operators.

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