GEZ stands for Gebühreneinzugszentrale which is responsible for the public broadcasting of television and radio, internet, that sort of thing. A lot of people find the concept of paying for these services a little or rather, more than a little ridiculous. English speaking natives argue that German television is the farthest thing from their interest and they’d rather put on a CD and rock out than turning on the radio. This stirs up the debate on why they have to pay for a service that they either never use, or use so seldom that it shouldn’t count. Well, the main reason is that by law you are required to give up those 17 euros a month. In previous years people have avoided the letters, pushing them to the back of the pile, or tossing them in the Kaminofen with a couple pieces of firewood every now and then. GEZ is persistent. There’s no doubt about that. You’ll get the letters for as long as you refuse to comply or as long as you ignore them. You can also opt to get out of it by letting them know that you don’t use these services, you don’t own a TV, the radio has taken permanent residence in the basement and your car only plays CD’s. Until recently, this may have worked. Although you risk the chance of one of the persistent workers showing up every now and then to check if there really isn’t a plasma screen plastered to your living room wall. They’ve also been known to trick you into incriminating yourself by telling you they have proof of you watching one television show or the other.
So the question of how fair all of this is, comes into play more often than not.
While you may really not own a television and your radio is ten out of ten times off, should you really be subject to these fees? Owning the appliances are half of the problem. If you do own something that has the capability of accessing these services then you are already one step behind the GEZ. Aldi almost got the wrong end of the stick with the GEZ when they were made aware that they could be held responsible for paying the fee on every television they had in stock in a certain city.
What is important to know is that the services provided come with a hefty price tag. It may help to look at the cost as a tax rather than a fee. At some point you will use the services. You can’t shelter yourself, and restrict yourself from these things just because you want to avoid a fee for something that will be useful at some point during your stay in Germany. There would be a bigger problem if these services weren’t available. Just like the police, you may not use them today, or tomorrow or for all the years you live in Germany, but it’s nice knowing that you can if you need to.