Luxembourg (dpa) – Two money lovers from Hesse are threatened with defeat in the dispute with the Hessischer Rundfunk over the payment of the license fee following a judgment of the European Court of Justice.
A country with the euro as its currency could require its administration to accept cash, the highest EU judge ruled in Luxembourg on Tuesday. However, this option could also be restricted for reasons of public interest (Cases C-422/19 and C-432/19).
The background is the case of two Germans who want to pay the radio license amount in cash to the Hessischer Rundfunk. The institution declined and sent payment messages instead. Those affected filed a complaint against this with the federal administrative court, which eventually appealed to the Court of Justice.
The judges in Luxembourg now discovered one thing: in general, the euro, with its status as “legal tender” in the euro area countries, cannot be refused to repay a debt in this currency. At the same time, however, there is no absolute obligation to accept euro banknotes in order to anchor and maintain this status. Any exceptions to the obligation to accept cash do not have to be stipulated in a uniform manner, provided that payment in cash is generally possible.
It is therefore the euro countries themselves who determine how payment obligations can be met. You can also require government agencies to accept cash. However, in the opinion of the judges of the CJEU, it is precisely this obligation that can be limited in the public interest – provided this is done in a proportionate manner.
For example, it is in the public interest that the settlement of debts to the government does not lead to unreasonable costs that allow them to offer their services more cheaply. In particular, if the number of contributors is very high, the restriction on cash payments could be justified, the judges made clear.
Following Tuesday’s ruling, the federal administrative court must now investigate whether it is proportionate in this case to restrict payment by cash. According to the CJEU, it should be especially taken into account that the other legal means of payment may not be easily accessible to all persons liable to pay contributions.