Skilled workers immigration, WhatsApp, daylight saving time What's changing for consumers in March

Bonn · A new WhatsApp function, money for 18-year-olds and a switch to daylight saving time. In March, consumers will once again see a number of changes. We provide an overview.

It’s time to change our clocks again in March.

It’s time to change our clocks again in March.

Foto: dpa/Helmut Fohringer

Consumers will have to get used to a number of changes in March. The time change is coming, there is a new WhatsApp feature and young people will receive a gift on their 18th birthday.

Time change

Overnight from March 30 to 31, the time will change from winter to summer time. Clocks need to be moved an hour ahead at two o'clock in the morning.

Arts and Culture Pass: 100 euros for 18-year-olds

Young people born in 2006 can register for the “Kulturpass” beginning in March, as stated by the German government on its website. They will receive 100 euros as a gift, which they can use to buy tickets for events, books or music when they turn 18.

New WhatsApp function

Starting in March, it will be possible to reach contacts who use other chat apps such as Telegram or Signal via WhatsApp. This means that someone who uses the Signal app, for example, can also write to a contact who only uses WhatsApp. A separate WhatsApp account is then no longer absolutely necessary.

WhatsApp must comply with new EU directives. The European Union wants to use the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to ensure fair competition online. The aim is to curb the market power of large companies such as Meta, Apple and Google.

To meet these requirements, WhatsApp is introducing so-called "third-party chats" - a separate folder in which messages from other instant messaging services are stored. Users can think of this feature like the archived chats on WhatsApp. However, it will initially only be possible with individual chats. As Meta manager Dick Brouwer said in an interview with Wired, cross-platform group chats or phone calls will only be possible in a few years' time.

Alternative app stores at Apple

The EU directive of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) will apply to Apple as of March. The company has announced on the Apple website that it will be possible to use alternative app stores and browsers starting in March. Customers will then no longer only be able to use the Apple Store, but also other app stores.

Apple had tried to resist the requirements. According to the company, the DMA would lead to new data protection and security risks within the Apple system. The company points out that malware and scams are made easier as a result. Apple therefore wants to introduce extended protective measures and thoroughly check the apps for security flaws.

Apple is also introducing a new payment method. This means that app developers can decide for themselves how customers have to pay for apps.

More money for public sector employees

While the trade union Verdi is still fighting for more money in many sectors, civil servants, judges and soldiers will already receive a higher salary as of March 1. Employees will receive an initial increase of 200 euros in two stages. Subsequently, employees in the public sector will receive a 5.5 percent increase on their gross salary. Salaries are set to increase by at least 340 euros.

Rising health insurance contributions for pensioners

At the start of 2024, some health insurance companies have increased their supplemental premiums. Many people have already had to pay this increase since the beginning of the year. In March, the increase on these premiums will also affect pensioners. The health insurance funds themselves have decided on the amount of the supplementary fee. The additional fees for the statutory health insurance funds average 1.7 percent. The increases vary depending on the insurance company. Some insurers have not passed on any increases.

Skilled workers can immigrate to Germany more easily

Beginning in March, a new regulation of the Skilled Immigration Act will come into effect. The previous 18-month residence permit for participation in qualification programs will be extended to 24 months. An extension of 12 months and up to a maximum residence period of three years is possible. The prospective skilled workers can also pursue a part-time job during the qualification program. The number of hours per week is increased from 10 to 20.

New license plates for mopeds, scooters and e-scooters

Black becomes blue: as of March 1, owners of mopeds, scooters and e-scooters will have to change their license plates. As every year, the license plate expires after one year. Insurance coverage is only valid with the new blue license plates.

New reporting portal for employers

Starting in March, companies must use the new social insurance reporting portal to report to the social insurance institutions. Companies should register with the new portal by March 31, as it will be free to use until the end of 2024. The new portal will remain free of charge for the self-employed after this date.

Organ donation register

As of March 18, the organ donor card will gradually become obsolete. From then on, organ donors will be able to register on the website. However, hospitals are not expected to be able to access the database until summer of 2024.

More train cancellations in Bonn

In March, Deutsche Bahn is once again restricting local and long-distance services between Cologne and Bonn. The reason for this is construction work. From March 1 to 22, employees will be installing more signals and laying around 60 kilometers of cable. Rail travelers must be prepared for cancellations and replacement services.

(Orig. text: Wiebke Elges; Translation: ck)

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