O2 business (symbol picture): »Just turn the signpad over to the customer to sign«
Photo: A9999 O2 / dpa
A mobile phone contract not only includes details about the basic fee or data volume, but possibly also data protection consent. According to research by Netzpolitik.org, Telefónica collects personal data of its customers in order to create usage profiles. The data is used for internal marketing, for example to offer people other products. Communication content such as SMS or e-mails are not saved.
At least all of this is in internal documents published by the Netzpolitik.org online portal.
Anyone who concludes or renews a contract with Telefónica to which the O2 brand belongs can consent or reject the data processing.
But according to the research, this is exactly where the problem lies.
According to the report, several operators of Telefonicá shops admit "to cheer their customers on pseudo-consent".
"The seller simply ticks all the consent ticks on the computer and then just turns the signpad over to the customer to sign," explains an anonymous operator of a so-called O2 partner shop to Netzpolitik.org.
A detailed instruction about what happens to the data, as provided for in the General Data Protection Regulation, looks different.
Confronted with the processes described, a Telefónica spokesman told SPIEGEL that the company was always complying with all legal and data protection requirements.
"In our operator information, process documentation and work instructions, we always draw our sales partners' attention to these data protection requirements." Compliance with these requirements is also checked regularly.
"The company will in any case follow up on customer complaints about improper behavior on the part of sales partners with regard to consent to data processing." At the moment, however, the company had no such complaints, said the company spokesman.
Quality bonus and consent rates
As with a franchise system, numerous O2 shops are operated as partner shops. The operators do not work directly for Telefónica, but actually run their business independently. But apparently some of them feel pressured by the company to get as much consent as possible from their customers. According to the report, operators of partner shops complain only if they achieve a rate of more than 75 percent consent, they would receive a so-called "quality bonus" from Telefónica, which is economically important for them.
The case has now also reached the Federal Data Protection Commissioner.
"We know the allegations against the mobile operator and are currently examining the case," a spokeswoman said on request.
Due to the ongoing proceedings, it is currently not possible to comment on the allegations.
"It is common practice in the telecommunications industry to agree quality targets with sales partners when distributing products," said a Telefónica spokesman about the payment of quality bonuses.
The amounts only made up a very small part of the determination of the monthly payments to the partner shops.
Changes to the so-called permission management system, with which the partner shops obtain the consent and transmit it to Telefónica, are apparently not planned.
How to check your data releases
O2 customers can check the company's online portal to see which permits they have given the company.
There you can see the details of the consent under "My data" and "Settings" if you scroll down a little.
Consent can also be revoked there.
The Telefónica competitor Vodafone was only recently criticized for its partners' sales methods.
It became known that a representative was even putting a contract on a cat.