The trade in particularly catchy cell phone numbers on the Internet has been flourishing for a long time. For a so-called VIP number, some Ebay providers charge several hundred thousand euros. Is this allowed?

What was the number again?

EAn easy-to-remember phone number is gold for entrepreneurs. Ideally, customers associate it with a product or service. TV and radio stations rely on this in their competitions, for example. The taxi call has perfected it: 55555 or 66666 can still be typed on the keyboard in any state. Anyone who sets up a new business wants to be reachable – on the Internet and mobile.

But such catchy cell phone numbers are not on the street. Some mobile network operators offer a number of your choice for a surcharge. But many combinations are already taken. Busy business people have long discovered a market in it. They sell so-called VIP numbers for a lot of money on Ebay.

The prices on the trading platform leave you amazed. A provider for a cell phone number with five zeros is asking for half a million euros. Another person wants 360,000 euros for a mobile extension, which is followed by the digits 7100100 after the area code. The offers relate to prepaid cards and mobile phone contracts. Some sellers appear serious, others at least dubious. They all operate in a legal gray area in a market.

According to the Federal Network Agency, trading in phone numbers is not permitted

Six years ago, a ruling by the Düsseldorf regional court caused a sensation. A user had bought a VIP number on Ebay for a lot of money. But suddenly it stopped working. The employee of a shop belonging to the associated mobile operator had taken the number away from him to sell it to someone else.

To do this, he forged documents and transferred the number to the other customer without authorization. The Ebay user sued the mobile operator – and lost, despite the questionable behavior of the employee. He got neither his money nor the number back.

“The trade in telephone numbers violates the telecommunications numbering ordinance,” says the Federal Network Agency. And that’s how the district court saw it. A Vodafone spokesman emphasizes: “If you buy a VIP number on Ebay for expensive money, you have to expect that your money will be gone – without getting the number or being able to keep it permanently.” Company numbers.

Business is still booming

The network agency is responsible for the administration of mobile phone numbers. It allocates them in blocks to the mobile network operators, who in turn allocate the individual numbers to their customers. If a customer wants to pass the number on to someone else, he can request a change of contract partner from the provider. He may not demand any money from the new contractual partner. But the regulation, which prescribes all of this, leaves room for interpretation.

From Ebay’s point of view, the “legal transfer of the allocation of telephone numbers is permitted in certain cases according to the ordinance”. Even the cell phone company Telefónica does not want to make any general statements due to the many different offers on Ebay. All that is reported is: “Telefónica does not actively review offers on sales platforms on the Internet.” According to the Federal Network Agency, several administrative proceedings are currently pending in the matter.

Until then, trade is booming. Professional sellers with registered trades are also involved. For example, a provider sells starter packages with non-activated SIM cards and particularly catchy mobile phone numbers. If the business were illegal, he would be out of work for a long time, he writes.

Anyone who clicks through his reviews will notice that in individual cases he will convert up to 1000 euros per number – depending on how catchy it is. But he sells a large part at prices of around 50 euros. Since the numbers are only part of the starter package, it is a legal trade.

Interested buyers will be quickly convinced of such assurances. Because neither the mobile network operator nor the Federal Network Agency check every single offer or an offer at all on Ebay, the risk of losing your number should be low anyway. The consumer advice center is not aware of any problems or complaints in connection with VIP numbers on Ebay. However, those who sit up against fraudsters and end up without a number should have little chance of enforcing their rights.