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Brandenburg: Cottbus Administrative Court decides legality of installing wireless water meter on property must be measured against GDPR

The Cottbus Administrative Court issued, on 4 February 2022, its judgment in Case VG 4 K 1191/19, where the Court dismissed the lawsuit relating to a contested fee notice issued by the defendant to the plaintiff as a result of complying with the plaintiff's request to switch off the newly installed water meter containing a radio module, since the plaintiff alleged that the wireless water meter infringed their right to informational self-determination under Article 2(1) in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the Basic Law of 23 May 1949 ('GG') and to the inviolability of the home under Article 13 of the GG.

Background to the case  

In particular, the Court outlined that the plaintiff owns property that is supplied with water by the special-purpose association headed by the defendant. In addition, the Court stated that the defendant installed a new water meter on the plaintiff's property on 13 December 2018, which contains a radio module, which enables the meter reading to be transmitted at any time. However, the Court noted that the plaintiff contacted the defendant and objected to the installation of the wireless water meter alleging that the meter infringed their right to informational self-determination under Article 2(1) in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the GG and to the inviolability of the home under Article 13 of the GG. Furthermore, the Court stated that after the plaintiff continued to request that the radio function be switched off, the defendant switched it off, however, the defendant issued the plaintiff an administrative fee notice for switching off the radio module. Moreover, the Court noted that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit after the defendant rejected the plaintiff's objection to the fee notice.

Findings of the Court

In particular, the Court noted that the legality of the installation of a water meter with a radio module on a property for the purpose of charging user fees is not to be measured against the fundamental rights of the GG, but rather, complete harmonisation had occurred in this area of data collection through the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) ('GDPR'). Hence, the Court held that the legality of the installation must therefore be measured against the GDPR and the fundamental rights of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Furthermore, the Court held that the installation of a water meter with a radio module may already be considered data processing within the meaning of the GDPR. Moreover, the Court noted that in this case, the processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller, in accordance with Article 6(1)(e) of the GDPR. Additionally, the Court held that Article 12(5) in conjunction with Article 18 of the GDPR does not preclude the charging of an administrative fee for the deactivation of the radio module of the water meter, if the association has decided on the subscriber's objection to the installation, and the subscriber in any case only objects in principle to the collection of data and does not invoke any grounds under Article 21(1) of the GDPR arising from their particular situation.

Outcomes

In light of the above, the Court dismissed the lawsuit.

You can read the decision, only available in German, here.

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