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Key facts of the case: 

The plaintiff challenged a demand for payment of service fees from October to December 2013 by the public service broadcasting corporation. The plaintiff was not exempt of the payment. Until the end of 2012 he paid the fees for a radio and car radio and then discontinued to pay. 

Before the courts of the first and second instance the plaintiff argued that the demand for payment was not justified as the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting Service Fees (Rundfunkbeitragsstaatsvertrag) was unconstitutional and the demand for payment violated the principle of equal treatment because every household is required to pay service fees without reference to the actual use of broadcasting services. The courts of the first and second instance did not follow this reasoning.

Before the Federal Administrative Court as court of appeal the plaintiff then argued that the demand for payment was not justified since it is not linked to the use of broadcast but linked to the use of one’s home. Therefore, the plaintiff claimed that the payment was a residential tax or a household fee since it is demanded without any service in return and thus not covered by the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting Service Fees. Accordingly, the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting Service Fees would have been needed to be presented to the European Commission according to Article 8 (1) of the EU Directive 98/34/EC, before coming into effect. The plaintiff also argued that the service fee violated the principle of equal burden (Gebot der Belastungsgleichheit) as households with only one income have to pay the same fees as households with more than one income. In addition, the plaintiff argued that the right to information also covers the right to escape from information for which fees are required. Thus, it needed to be clarified if the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting Service Feesviolated Article 11 (1) of the Charter.

Outcome of the case: 

The plaintiff’s appeal was not successful. The Federal Administrative Court decided that the broadcasting corporation did not violate the fundamental rights of the plaintiff by applying the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting Service Fees as the treaty is considered constitutional. The court further argued that the treaty had not to be presented to the European Commission according to the Directive 98/34/EC because broadcasting services are not covered by the meaning of Article 1 No. 2 of the Directive.

Further, the court argues that Article 11 (1) of the Charter was not applicable because Article 51 (1) of the Charter limits its scope of application to the implementation of EU law by the Member States. In this case the national legislation neither intends to implement a provision of EU law nor pursues objectives other than those covered by EU law. Hence, national legislation is “autonomous” in relation to EU law. Beyond that there were neither any EU provisions which are specific on the matter nor any of them were capable of affecting the national act of state.