As part of its ordinary business activities, Deutsche Telekom is involved in various proceedings both in and out of court with government agencies, competitors, and other parties, the outcome of which often cannot be reliably anticipated. As of the reporting date, the Group was exposed to contingent liabilities amounting to EUR 0.1 billion (December 31, 2019: EUR 0.6 billion) and to contingent assets amounting to EUR 0.0 billion (December 31, 2019: EUR 0.0 billion) that, on the basis of the information and estimates available, do not fulfill the requirements for recognition as liabilities or assets in the statement of financial position. Litigation provisions include the costs of legal counsel services and any probable losses. Deutsche Telekom does not believe that any additional costs arising from legal counsel services or the results of proceedings will have a material adverse effect on the results of operations and financial position of the Group. In addition to individual cases that do not have any significant impact on their own, the aforementioned total contingent liabilities include the following items, the sequence of which does not imply an evaluation of their probability of occurrence or potential damage. In the event that in extremely rare cases disclosures required by IAS 37 are not made, Deutsche Telekom comes to the conclusion that these disclosures could seriously undermine the outcome of the relevant proceedings.
Prospectus liability proceedings (third public offering, or DT3). This relates to initially around 2,600 ongoing lawsuits from some 16,000 alleged buyers of T-Shares sold on the basis of the prospectus published on May 26, 2000. The plaintiffs assert that individual figures given in this prospectus were inaccurate or incomplete. The amount in dispute currently totals approximately EUR 78 million plus interest. Some of the actions are also directed at KfW and/or the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the banks that handled the issuances. The Frankfurt/Main Regional Court had issued orders for reference to the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court in accordance with the German Capital Investor Model Proceedings Act (Kapitalanleger-Musterverfahrensgesetz – KapMuG) and has temporarily suspended the initial proceedings. On May 16, 2012, the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court had ruled that there were no material errors in Deutsche Telekom AG’s prospectus. In its decision on October 21, 2014, the Federal Court of Justice partly revoked this ruling, determined that there was a mistake in the prospectus, and referred the case back to the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court. On November 30, 2016, the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court ruled that the mistake in the prospectus identified by the Federal Court of Justice could result in liability on the part of Deutsche Telekom AG, although the details of that liability would have to be established in the initial proceedings. Both Deutsche Telekom AG and some of the individual plaintiffs in the model proceedings have brought an appeal before the Federal Court of Justice against this decision. We continue to hold the opinion that there are compelling reasons why Deutsche Telekom AG should not be liable for damages.
Likewise, on the basis of the information and estimates available, the following issues do not fulfill the requirements for recognition as liabilities in the statement of financial position. As it is not possible to estimate the amount of the contingent liabilities or the group of contingent liabilities with sufficient reliability in each case due to the uncertainties described below, they have not been included in the aforementioned total contingent liabilities.
Claims relating to charges for the shared use of cable ducts. In 2012, Kabel Deutschland Vertrieb und Service GmbH (today Vodafone Kabel Deutschland GmbH (VKDG)) filed a claim against Telekom Deutschland GmbH to reduce the annual charge for the rights to use cable duct capacities in the future and gain a partial refund of the payments made in this connection since 2004. According to VKDG’s latest estimates, its claims amounted to around EUR 624 million along with around EUR 9 million for the alleged benefit from additional interest, plus interest in each case. Claims prior to 2009 are now no longer being asserted by VKDG. After the Frankfurt/Main Regional Court had dismissed the complaint in 2013, the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court also rejected the appeal in December 2014. In the ruling dated January 24, 2017, the Federal Court of Justice reversed the appeal ruling and referred the case back to the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court for further consideration. In its ruling dated December 20, 2018, the Frankfurt/Main Higher Regional Court again rejected the appeal and disallowed a further appeal. In similar proceedings, Unitymedia Hessen GmbH & Co. KG, Unitymedia NRW GmbH, and Kabel BW GmbH filed claims against Telekom Deutschland GmbH in January 2013, demanding that it cease charging the plaintiffs more than a specific and precisely stated amount for the shared use of cable ducts. In addition, the plaintiffs are demanding a refund of currently around EUR 570 million plus interest. The claim was dismissed in the first instance by the Cologne Regional Court on October 11, 2016. In its ruling dated March 14, 2018, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court rejected the appeal against this decision. In both proceedings, the plaintiffs have lodged a complaint against the non-allowance of appeal with the Federal Court of Justice.
Patents and licenses. Like many other large telecommunications and internet providers, Deutsche Telekom is exposed to a growing number of intellectual property rights disputes. There is a risk that Deutsche Telekom may have to pay license fees and/or compensation; Deutsche Telekom is also exposed to a risk of cease-and-desist orders, for example relating to the sale of a product or the use of a technology.
Anti-trust and consumer protection proceedings. Deutsche Telekom and its subsidiaries are subject to proceedings under competition law in various jurisdictions, which may also lead to civil follow-on claims. Taken individually, none of the proceedings have a material impact. Deutsche Telekom believes the respective allegations and claims for damages are unfounded. The outcome of the proceedings cannot be foreseen at this point in time.
Claims for damages against Slovak Telekom following a European Commission decision to impose fines. The European Commission decided on October 15, 2014 that Slovak Telekom had abused its market power on the Slovak broadband market and as a result imposed fines on Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom, which were paid in full in January 2015. Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom challenged the European Commission’s decision on December 29, 2014 before the General Court of the European Union. On December 13, 2018, the court partially overturned the European Commission’s decision and reduced the fines by a total of EUR 13 million. Despite this positive judgment, on February 21, 2019, Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom filed an appeal with the European Court of Justice against the ruling by the General Court. With this appeal, Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom are seeking, inter alia, to overturn the findings of the European Commission determining Slovak Telekom’s behavior as abusive. Following the decision of the European Commission, competitors filed damage actions against Slovak Telekom with the civil court in Bratislava. These claims seek compensation for alleged damages due to Slovak Telekom’s abuse of a dominant market position, as determined by the European Commission. At present, two claims totaling EUR 112 million plus interest are still pending.
Tax risks. In many countries, Deutsche Telekom is subject to the applicable tax regulations. Risks can arise from changes in local taxation laws or case law and different interpretations of existing provisions. As a result, they can affect Deutsche Telekom’s tax expense and benefits as well as tax receivables and liabilities.