Elderly people and consumer protection: Tips for surprising sales situations

Have you or someone close to you encountered difficulties in surprising sales situations? For example, when a salesperson calls, shows up at your door or approaches you by email? Or are you concerned about any suspicious or vague orders or unclear invoices that someone close to you has received?

This page provides tips and links to help you prevent and resolve any problems caused by unexpected sales situations.

Preventing problems

When should you be sceptical of a seller’s offer?

  • If the offer sounds too good to be true. If you are offered a free sample, a renovation survey or a trial period, make sure that it does not lead you unintentionally to placing a paid order.
  • If you feel that you are being pressured or hurried to make a purchase decision or place an order for a sample.
  • If the seller does not answer your questions or provide the additional information you need.
  • If someone requests your bank ID, personal information, or payment card information. The police or any other authorities will never ask for these by phone or email or at your door.

How can you inform a seller that you are not interested?

You can always refuse a sale, and you are never obligated to buy anything even if the seller has spent a lot of time presenting their product.

1. Answer the seller shortly and succinctly. For example:

  • No thank you – I don’t want to order anything.
  • No thank you – I’m not interested.
  • No thank you – I have authorised someone else to handle my affairs

2. After saying no, you can say:

  • Have a good day.
  • You can also tell your caller the following: I forbid my data from being used for marketing purposes in the future.

3. Then you can close your phone or leave the place of sale with peace of mind.

What should you do if you are interested in a seller’s offer?

If you are interested in a seller’s offer, you can do the following:

  • Tell them that you will think about it and that you are not willing to sign or agree on anything before that.
  • Request a quote in writing. Read the terms and conditions carefully, including the clauses concerning your right to cancel the sale.
  • Take the time to think about your needs and consider your alternatives.
  • Discuss your options with your closest relations or someone you trust.
  • Compare your quote with those provided by other sellers.

How can you tell whether you have fallen prey to inappropriate sellers?

It is usually a sign of trouble if:

  • an apartment is constantly filled with new products that a person does not need or know how to use.
  • an apartment is full of unused health products, unopened packages or countless magazines.
  • a person regularly receives invoices for products that they can’t recall ordering.

How can I protect myself or those close to me from unnecessary purchases or misleading marketing?

The most important thing is learning to say NO.


1. You can restrict your telemarketing permissions. While a restriction service cannot guarantee that no sellers will ever call you again, they will keep a large proportion of Finnish companies at bay.
Opting out of direct marketing

  • You can help a close relation opt out of direct marketing with a power of attorney. Drafting a power of attorney does not require a lawyer or any legal know-how. You can find several power of attorney templates on the internet.
  • A continuing power of attorney is useful when you wish to authorise someone to handle your affairs on your behalf when you become unable to do so. For more information on continuing power of attorney mandates, visit the following websites:
    The Digital and Population Data Services Agency
    The Alzheimer Society of Finland (In Finnish)

2. Speak up. Follow these instructions or tell your closest relations about them: Do not order anything until you have carefully considered your needs and options and discussed your potential order with your friends or someone else you trust.

Door-to-door sales

1. Hang a “No door-to-door sales”/”No peddlers” sign in your yard or on your door.

2. Speak up. Follow these instructions or tell your closest relations about them:  Do not agree to or sign anything until you have carefully considered your needs and options and discussed your potential order with your friends or someone else you trust. For example, the home repair advisors of the Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People (VTKL) can help assess your actual renovation needs.

Home repair advice (In Finnish, Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People)

Online stores

1. When shopping online, use a credit card or ask for a traditional invoice. If you pay with a credit card, your credit card provider can also help you recover your money.

2. Speak up. Follow these instructions or tell your closest relations about them: Do not buy anything or give your information to anyone until you have assessed the reliability of the deal, competition or lottery and have understood the terms and conditions that you will agree to. If a website or email is telling you that you are in luck or that you have won a lottery or about to receive a great deal, it is most likely a scam. Determine the reliability of your offers by using a search engine, for example by looking for other experiences in online forums.

Solving problems

Is it possible to cancel a sale made by an elderly person?

Whether a sale can be cancelled depends on many factors, such as where the product or service was purchased and whether the seller accepts returns.

Even in cases where there is no right to cancel, the consumer may, in some cases, have the right to withdraw from a contract. In addition to these, the consumer has the right to cancel their order and pay compensation for the cancellation.

Examples of situations where the consumer may be able to withdraw from their contract:

1) Invalid contracts

When a contract is found to be invalid, the seller is not entitled to claim payments in any respect.

Examples of situations where you may invoke the invalidity of a contract:

  • If an elderly person is pressured to make a purchase decision that they would not have made had they not been under pressure.
  • If the seller exploits the loneliness, tiredness, illness or weakness of an elderly person when concluding a contract – for example, a memory disorder or other form of impaired judgment related to old age.
  • If the legal capacity of an elderly person is restricted due to their diminished ability to function. If the legal capacity of an elderly person has been restricted in whole or in part by an official decision, any significant legal acts taken without their guardian’s consent will usually be deemed invalid.
  • If, at the date of conclusion of the contract, the elderly person was not legally capable, even though their ability to function had not been restricted by a court decision. A contract may be deemed invalid if it can be demonstrated afterwards that, at the date when the contract was finalised, the person was unable to adequately assess the significance of the legal act, for example due to a lack of understanding caused by a memory disorder. For example, it may be possible to terminate a renovation or other tailored service contract if it can be reliably demonstrated with a medical certificate or otherwise that the elderly person was not able to understand the significance of the contract.

2) Unfair contracts

Even if an individual contract term is deemed unreasonable, this will not usually invalidate the entire contract. However, it may be possible to terminate the contract if its terms are so unreasonable in their entirety that you cannot be required to remain a party to it.

You may demand the correction of an unreasonable contractual term. For example, if the price is much more expensive than the general price level or if cancelling the contract will invoke a particularly large contractual penalty. An unreasonable term may also be disregarded in its entirety, in which case the contract will remain unchanged and valid in all other respects.

If a contractual term has been drawn up in advance without the consumer having been able to influence its contents, the unreasonable contractual term will be ignored. In such cases, the other terms of the contract will still remain in force.

For more information, see Unfair terms of contract

3) Cancelling an order before the delivery of goods or provision of services

If you do not have the right to cancel or it has expired, you may still cancel your order if the ordered goods or services have not yet been delivered. However, cancelling an order constitutes a breach of contract, in which case the seller is entitled to compensation.

It is a good idea to cancel the order as soon as possible after the conclusion of the contract. For example, if the preparations for an expensive renovation have not been initiated yet or progressed much, a rapid cancellation can be the most sensible way to limit the company’s financial damages. This will also help limit the extent of the compensation paid by the consumer.

The compensation must be reasonable and correspond to the actual costs incurred to the seller as a result of the cancellation. The assessment of what constitutes reasonable compensation is influenced by various factors, such as:

  • how unique the ordered product is
  • how far its manufacturing has progressed
  • how soon the cancellation was made after the order had been placed.

The cancellation compensation may also be specified in the terms and conditions of the contract.  Such a term is valid if the compensation paid to the seller is reasonable in comparison to the actual costs incurred by the seller.

How can I dispute a contract and prevent someone from sending groundless invoices?

Submit a written complaint to the invoicing company in which you dispute the conclusion of the contract. If debt collection procedures are initiated, submit a written complaint to the collection company.

When you dispute your payment obligation for a justifiable reason, the debt collection process may not legally proceed until the matter has been settled.

If the contract was concluded by phone in a telemarketing scenario, demand a recording of the call as well. Under Finnish law, consumers have the right to receive either a recording or transcript of the sales call.

Use the Complaint Assistant to dispute groundless invoices or collections when you have received e.g.

  • an invoice for an item or service that you have not ordered
  • an invoice that does not indicate what you are being charged for.

If you cannot resolve your complaint with the company in a satisfactory manner, contact our Consumer Advisory Services.

The Complaint Assistant
Filing a complaint with a company

Where can I get help if I can’t solve my issue with a company?

Contact the Consumer Advisory Services of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority

The FCCA’s Consumer Advisory Services provide free advice on consumer rights and mediation assistance in disputes between consumers and companies.

Consumer Advisory Service