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Everything that changes in Germany in February 2019

From higher taxes to healthier products, we look at what changes when January becomes February on Friday.

Everything that changes in Germany in February 2019
A clock in Dresden being changed in March 2018. Photo: DPA
What the app?
Whatsapp is particular popular in Germany, but it will most likely lose some users due to a controversial innovation. While WhatsApp was free of advertising in the past, this will now change, and several Germans have already taken to social media to complain.
Mark Zuckerberg's data giant Facebook bought Whatsapp four years ago, and has now signed an agreement for free advertising, which it can show in the form of videos, text or photos. 
Facebook Vice President Chris Daniel announced in November that he wanted to show the ads in the status area in the future. At the time, the announcement prompted some Whatsapp employees to leave the company.
Germany in the past tried to minimize the relationship between the two services; in 2016, the Data Protection Services blocked Facebook from collecting user information from WhatsApp.
Photo: DPA
Woman and/or holidaymakers rejoice, officially
Whether in the name of feminism or having another official day off of work, many Berliners rejoiced last week when Frauentag, or Women's Day, was voted by Berlin's state parliament as a public holiday. It will be officially written in to law on February 1st. 
Cities cleaning up their act?
More and more German cities are imposing driving bans on older diesel models. A ban zone was only introduced in Stuttgart at the turn of the year. However a ban in Frankfurt, which was supposed to go into affect on February 1st, is currently being put on ice, as the city is protesting the decision made by the Hesse state government in Wiesbaden.  
Spraying on the safe side
An amendment to the EU Cosmetics Regulation stipulates that sprays and other cosmetics must no longer contain zinc oxide. Inhaling such particles can cause pneumonia. Starting from February 24th, such products may not be sold. Cosmetics already on shelves, however, can be sold up to May 24th. 
The real pill
Counterfeit drugs will hopefully be a thing of the past by later this year. As of February 9th, 2019, the packaging of medicines must bear an individual number and a seal, according to Germany's Federal Office of Medicine and Medical Products, bringing it up to standard with EU-wide regulations. This is intended to prevent counterfeit medicines from entering the market. 
A toll that's not so toll (great)?
Holidaymakers heading to the Austrian ski slopes by car will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets from February 1st. From then on, the new annual tolls will apply – with slightly higher prices. Instead of €87.30, the annual toll now costs €89.20.
Also the tolls for shorter trips (for ten days or two months) become more expensive. They rise in each case around 60 cent to €9,20 or €26,80.

Keeping emissions in balance
At the end of January 2019, the amendment to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Act (TEHG) came into force, transposing the reform of European emissions trading into German law. The primary aim is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases and at the same time to ensure the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries within the EU.
Here's a bit of background: Throughout Europe, 12,000 industrial and energy plants are participating in emissions trading. This means that together they may only emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases. This maximum quantity will be reduced from year to year – this year by 38 million tonnes, and by 2021 by 48 million tonnes. 
Photo: DPA
Some say that this really sucks
Anyone looking for a new vacuum cleaner has so far been able to look to the EU energy label. With a letter scale that ranged from A+++ to D and a colour scale from dark green to dark red, it quickly became clear which product was energy-efficient – and which was not. But that's over now: vacuum cleaners will no longer have an EU energy label.
While the manufacturers of refrigerators, washing machines and televisions may continue to advertise with such a label, the labels of vacuum cleaners must disappear. The reason for this is a court ruling which criticized the test method chosen by the EU.
According to the court's reasoning, energy consumption had only been tested using empty vacuum cleaner bags. Yet they said this is an inefficient way to test: in practice, of course, vacuuming is also done with filled bags – and this influences energy efficiency. The complaint was filed by the British company Dyson, whose products are completely bagless.
Cheaper Saki for residents of Germany
The Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Japan enters into force on February 1st. The significance is enormous, say economists: both markets account for around one-third of global economic output.
With the agreement – also called Jefta – almost all customs duties on the products of both economic areas will cease to apply. The annual savings for EU exporters are expected to amount to around one billion euros annually. In addition, an increase in exports is expected due to the size of the Japanese market.
Sushi sold in a REWE supermarket. Photo: DPA
Looking on the sunny side
Starting Thursday, January 31st, the new register for photovoltaic systems in Germany will be launched. All types of devices, from a solar roof you install on your home (though most likely won't reap much benefit from in February) to solar production plants, apply – you can find the form to register here
Newly set-up systems, as well as the expansion of existing PV systems, must be registered within one month of installment. There is a two-year notification period for owners of existing systems. Anyone who misses this deadline risks a reduction in the feed-in tariff under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG).
Want to know what will change throughout Germany over the course of the year? See our article about everything that's set to change in 2019

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For members


Everything that changes in Germany in July 2022

From energy relief measures and an increase in the minimum wage to rules for making it easier to cancel contracts online, here's what's changing in Germany this July.

Everything that changes in Germany in July 2022

No more free rapid Covid tests for all

Taxpayer-funded Covid-19 rapid tests or Bürgertests are no longer free for everyone. Under the Health Ministry’s plans, the tests will cost €3, however, some groups of people will still get them for free. 


Financial relief for families

As part of the government’s energy relief package, the Kinderbonus will be paid out to families in July. Each child entitled to child benefit will receive a one-time bonus of €100.

Due to inflation and rapidly rising food prices, recipients of social assistance benefits, Hartz-IV and asylum benefits will also get a cash boost in July. They will receive two payments of €100 each and their children €20 each.

€9 ticket and fuel tax cut continues

Germany’s €9 monthly public transport ticket offer continues until the end of August so people will be able to buy a ticket and use it in July. Similarly, the fuel tax cut is in force until the end of August. 

A Covid test centre in Rostock.

A Covid test centre in Rostock. Rapid tests will no longer be free for all from July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

End of the EEG levy 

The Russian war on Ukraine is causing energy prices to rocket upwards. To help people in Germany deal with the price hikes, the coalition government in Germany has decided to abolish the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) charge.

The EEG levy is a green tax that has been used to fund investment in solar and wind power as part of the energy transition. Until January 1st, 2022, it added 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour to people’s energy bills, but at the start of the year, it was reduced to 3.72 cents per kilowatt hour.

From July people in Germany will no longer have to pay the levy. However, It’s not clear whether this will really save consumers much money, due to energy costs going up significantly. 

READ ALSO: Will German energy bills really come down soon?

Increase in the minimum wage

As Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats promised before the German federal election last year, the minimum wage is being raised this year. It is to be gradually increased to €12 by October 2022. In January the minimum wage rose to €9.82, in July it will rise to €10.45.

More financial relief measures come into force in Germany in July.

More financial relief measures come into force in Germany in July. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Pension increase

People who receive pensions in Germany will get more money from July. In the states that formerly comprised West Germany, pensions will rise by 5.35 percent, in the former East German states by 6.12 percent. The German pension insurance fund says it is one of the highest adjustments since the introduction of pension insurance.

School holidays continue 

More schools in German states are finishing up for the summer. After schools in North Rhine-Westphalia broke up in June, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are next, followed by Hamburg, Berlin and Brandenburg on the Wednesday after (July 6th).

The southern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria will be the last to go off on their school holidays – at the end of July and on August 1st respectively.

Pfand scheme extended 

From July, a 25-cent deposit or Pfand will be charged on more plastic bottles and drink cans. Due to the amendment of the Packaging Act, bottled fruit drinks such as orange juice as well as mixed alcoholic beverages will have to be recycled in future. Under plans to extend the scheme further, milk is set to be charged a Pfand from 2024. 

The regulation has been in effect since January 2022, but retailers were granted a transitional period until July 2022 to implement the change.

Get rid of old electrical appliances

From July, many large supermarkets and discount chains – including Aldi, Rewe and Edeka – will accept old electrical goods. People will be able to hand in products such as old mobile phones, electric razors, kettles and toasters free of charge. 

A kettle stands in a kitchen. Get rid of your old appliances at German supermarkets soon.

A kettle stands in a kitchen. Get rid of your old appliances at German supermarkets soon. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Andrea Warnecke

Driving licence deadline approaching

German people born between 1953 and 1958 and who have a paper driving licence issued before 1999 have to exchange it for a digital one or face a warning fine. The deadline for the exchange was originally planned for January, but due to the pandemic, it was extended to July 19th.

The cost of the exchange is €25.50. To apply for the EU driving licence, a valid identity card, the old driving licence and a biometric passport photo is needed. There is no extra driving or health test involved.

READ ALSO: Drivers in Germany given extension to exchange driving licence 

New rent law comes into force

As of July, tenants and landlords will have to provide information on rental prices if they are asked to by authorities. This is to enable a comparison of rents, especially in large cities. Tenants and landlords will be selected at random. Those who refuse to provide information can face a fine of up to €5,000.

Extension of tobacco tax

At the start of 2022, tobacco tax was increased and the price of cigarettes went up. As of July, this also applies to shisha tobacco and liquids for e-cigarettes.

Cancellations of contracts online to become easier

Since the beginning of the year, consumers in Germany have been able to terminate rolling contracts more easily. And people who have concluded a contract online should also be able to terminate it online in future under new laws. 

From July onwards, firms have to include a cancellation button on websites where contracts can be concluded. If this is not the case, the consumer has the right to terminate the contract without notice.

READ ALSO: How Germany is making it easier to cancel contracts 

Cost of sending packages goes up

Anyone who wants to send parcels or packages with DHL from July onwards will unfortunately have to dig further into their pockets. The rises apply to domestic and international shipments. DHL said the price hikes are because of the rise in transport, delivery and labour costs.

READ ALSO: What to know about German parcel delivery hikes

Tax deadline extended

One last point – self-submitted tax returns in Germany were due to be sent to the tax office by the end of July. However, the deadline has been extended until the end of October, giving people more time. 

READ ALSO: Why people in Germany have longer to do their tax return this year