In light of the discussion that recently broke out about German investigators who come to your door and pose questions to you about televisions and radios you own (to get you to admit you own them, and then sign you up for the German media tax), I just thought I’d link you to this story (G) about the intrusive and aggressive tactics of some of the freelance enforcers of this tax (which is collected by a German agency called the GEZ).
This story is number five in an ongoing series, and that the newspaper (the FAZ) reports that the problem of aggressive fee collectors is an "unending story," judging from the amount of mail they have gotten from readers during the course of the series. In this episode, a German/Canadian citizen who was accosted by a GEZ agent registered a television he had borrowed from his brother during a stay in a German vacation home. The GEZ begins booking money from his account, and takes months to stop, even after he’s informed them many times that he does not reside in Germany. Also, if you become homeless, but forget to officially de-register (abmelden) yourself from the rolls of television owners, and then later get your own apartment again, you will be billed for all the years you were technically, officially still "registered," but were actually living on the street.
We all agree that technically, you don’t have to tell the GEZ people anything, and that they are not allowed to enter your home. But after reading all of these stories, you cannot seriously argue that the the conduct of GEZ investigators doesn’t represent a serious intrusion by the state into the private autonomy of citizens. The moral of the story, which is the moral of all stories about all bureaucracies, is that once they get their hooks into you, you’re done for. Either comply immediately, or live ‘off the grid.’
By the way, I don’t watch very much television, but I’m generally satisfied with German TV and more than satisfied with German public radio stations, so I happy pay my GEZ fee.