The Consumer Ombudsman’s supervision measures and sanctions

The Consumer Ombudsman’s supervision measures consist of investigative powers and sanctions. The Consumer Ombudsman has a duty to negotiate, which means that it should seek to persuade the business to cease its unlawful practice through negotiation as the first course of action.

The Consumer Ombudsman’s powers of investigation include the right to obtain information, the right to carry out on-site inspections and the right to make test purchases. Sanctions include prohibitions imposed by the Consumer Ombudsman, prohibitions imposed by the Market Court, penalty fees imposed by the Market Court, and powers related to the online interface and domain names.

Obligation to negotiate

The Consumer Ombudsman must seek to persuade the entrepreneur to voluntarily abandon the unlawful practice. The Consumer Ombudsman’s duty to negotiate means that matters are primarily handled by negotiation. In most cases, this is achieved by requesting a written confirmation from the company stating that it will not continue its practice considered illegal by the Consumer Ombudsman.

If the business cannot be persuaded to abandon its unlawful practice through negotiation, the Consumer Ombudsman must proceed to use other remedies where necessary. In such cases, coercive measures or court proceedings will be considered.

Prohibition imposed by the Consumer Ombudsman

The Consumer Ombudsman may impose a prohibition in a matter that is not significant in terms of application of law, i.e. where the decision is not considered to set a precedent.

The purpose of such a prohibition is not to compensate for what has happened in the past, but, rather, to prevent any unlawful action that might take place in the future. The Consumer Ombudsman may issue a notice of a penalty payment fine in order to lend force to the prohibition. A prohibition may also be imposed on those employed by the entrepreneur.

The Consumer Ombudsman may impose a prohibition on a temporary basis, if there is reason to urgently prevent an illegal procedure due to the broad scope of the matter, the immediate impact of the illegal procedure, or for some other, special reason.

Prohibition imposed by the Market Court

The Consumer Ombudsman may refer an unlawful practice to the Market Court if the trader does not change their practice despite negotiations. In this case, the Consumer Ombudsman requests the Market Court to impose a prohibition on the trader’s practice.

The application should describe the subject matter of the dispute and details of the case.

The Market Court may, at the request of the Consumer Ombudsman, issue a temporary prohibition, in which case the prohibition will remain in force until the matter is finally resolved.

Penalty fee imposed by the Market Court

The Consumer Ombudsman has the right to request the Market Court to impose a penalty fee for breaches of certain provisions of law.

The Market Court may impose a penalty on a trader or a person employed by a trader who acts intentionally or with negligence to the detriment of consumers and violates or neglects consumers’ rights.

Intervening in unlawful online content

In exceptional cases, the Consumer Ombudsman may intervene in content published in a digital environment that clearly violates consumer protection provisions. Such intervention is possible in situations where the collective interest of consumers could be seriously damaged.

The Consumer Ombudsman may order the following:

  • the removal of content from a website or social media platform
  • blocking or restricting access to a specific website
  • the service provider must display a clear warning to consumers when they visit the website
  • disabling of the domain name or transferring it to the Consumer Ombudsman.

Temporary orders may also be issued, which remain in force until the matter has been fully resolved.

Right to obtain information

The Consumer Ombudsman has the right to obtain, free of charge, information needed in its investigations from the enterprise subject to supervision and from other private entities and persons. Information shall be obtained without prejudice to confidentiality provisions.

Right of inspection

The Consumer Ombudsman has the right to carry out an on-site inspection on the company’s premises if such an inspection is necessary to carry out the Ombudsman’s supervisory task. The inspection may be carried out without prior notice.

Upon request, the Consumer Ombudsman has the right to receive executive assistance from the police to carry out the on-site inspection.

Test purchases

The Consumer Ombudsman may make test purchases if such purchases are necessary for the performance of the Ombudsman’s supervisory task. In particular, test purchases can be used to monitor compliance with legislation during and after a purchase transaction. The Consumer Ombudsman can make test purchases both in physical business premises and online.

In test purchases, the Ombudsman’s representative may present as a consumer, i.e. the Consumer Ombudsman has the right to use a false identity in order to avoid the test purchase being exposed.

The Consumer Ombudsman must notify the business and the controller of the use of false identity as soon as possible without jeopardising the purpose of the test purchase.

The authorities have the same right of withdrawal as consumers in test purchases.