The Swiss fee collection agency, Billag, wanted to collect radio fees from a person who had been listening to the radio through a computer. The individual challenged the charge but was dismissed by the court of first instance, newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung reported.
Whether the person in question did in fact use a computer to listen to radio shows was found immaterial by the court, which considered the most important factor to be the computer’s capability.
It was the fact that the computer user had access to the internet over high-speed broadband which created the obligation to pay the fees, the court said.
Computers were considered to be multi-functional devices that are capable of obtaining a variety of services without necessarily having any direct service contracts. In particular, the court found that computers are capable of playing radio content just as well as a normal radio device.
The complainant argued that a differentiation should be made in the case of radio, similar to that made between those who watch television on a TV set and those who watch it on a computer screen.
But the court argued that computer-TV watchers had special licences because they had also entered into special arrangements with the online TV-providers, an arrangement which was not possible with radio providers.
The court found that the fee of 170 francs ($187) was not unreasonable, but did comment that businesses would likely be let off the radio fee when installing internet in offices for their staff.