German regulator’s IP blocking push stalls as leading ISPs reject to enforce “informal” requests

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Major German internet service providers are reportedly refusing to follow “informal” IP blocking orders from Germany’s new federal gambling regulator.

This was first reported by netzpolitik.org, a German language news site that concentrates on digital rights.

Earlier this month, the Gemeinsame Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL) said it expects to issue hundreds of prohibition orders per year in its fight against illegal gambling, with IP blocking viewed as the last resort when all other measures prove unsuccessful.

The authority also revealed that it started to initiate IP blocking orders against Lottoland and Lottohelden. The Lottoland Group in turn threatened to take legal action against the blocking of its IP.

Shortly after, the authority sent a circular to all internet service providers (ISPs) active on the German market to open up a direct line of communication with the GGL, Netzpolitik reported.

The regulator suggested that ISPs voluntarily block websites of unlicensed operators upon the GGL’s request and without a formal administrative procedure in order to avoid any administrative costs.

In return, the GGL said it expects the IP to be blocked immediately, with proof provided in the form of a screenshot.

Should providers ignore the “voluntary approach”, the GGL said it would have to initiate the normal administrative procedure, which can incur fines or fees of between €500 and €500,000 for the ISP.

Germany’s main ISPs have sharply criticised the move. According to the report, one German provider called the letter from the gaming supervisory authority a “rather unsubtle blackmail letter”.

Leading internet providers, including Vodafone, Telekom and PŸUR, rejected the proposed voluntary cooperation and stated they would prefer to follow the legal framework, the report notes.

The initiative has also faced push back in the Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament.

The chairwoman of the Bundestag’s digital committee, Tabea Rößner (Greens), describes the approach of the GGL as “somewhat unfortunate”, while MP Petra Sitte (left) called it “absolutely unacceptable”.

The GGL, meanwhile, said it is a normal procedure that authorities first offer an informal process before a formal, fee-based administrative act is initiated. This has worked very well in the past, according to the authority.

With its circular, it primarily aimed to raise awareness of, and explain, the legal basis for its IP blocking measures, the GGL said.

In addition, the authority highlighted that ISPs are of course free to reject this offer and to act only on the condition of a formal administrative procedure.

The GGL stated it was working towards finding a “pragmatic solution” that would be acceptable to all stakeholders.

About the author

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Sonja Lindenberg

Sonja Lindenberg is an experienced editor and journalist, with a strong focus on business, finance, trade and investment. She holds a degree in business journalism and throughout the past two decades has covered companies and industries in various markets and for different media, including newspapers, news agencies, inflight magazines, country reports and trade publications. Sonja joined iGaming NEXT in June 2022.

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