Organising customer service

Providing well-functioning customer service is both the starting point for a good customer relationship and important for meeting the statutory obligations for companies. By reviewing our guidelines, you can check whether your customer service meets the legal requirements, such as whether your contact channels are in order and whether you are handling consumer complaints appropriately.

The ABC of customer service – where to start

A business must ensure that the consumer can exercise their statutory rights efficiently in their customer relationship, and therefore, customer service must be efficient.
  • Make sure that it is clear to the consumer who they are dealing with, i.e. give the official name of your company and the contact details to which the customer can submit their written complaint.

  • Inform consumers about their rights, such as instructions for terminating the service or filing a complaint about a defect.

  • Make sure that your company has alternative and functional contact channels that are easy for the customer base to use.

  • Note that the consumer must be able to handle their matters without additional costs when you provide phone services for matters related to a prior contract, such as filing a complaint.

  • Ensure that the consumer’s right to have their problem resolved efficiently and effortlessly is realised.

Maintain customer service contact information and channels

Make sure that your company’s contact information is available to the consumer and that the contact channels are in order.

For the fulfilment of consumer rights, it is essential that the consumer can reach the company quickly and that the matter is handled efficiently with the company. It is important that the consumer knows which company they are concluding the contract with and how they can contact the company if, for example, they need to file a complaint.

Informing the consumer before concluding a contract

The legislation regulates which information relating to the customer service the consumer must receive before concluding a contract. You should note that different sales channels have different requirements for information to be provided to the customer.

In addition, certain lines of business have more stringent requirements on what information must be provided about the processing of customer complaints. For example, the Electricity Market Act requires the consumer to be informed of the available complaint procedures.

Equal contact channels

Make sure that the contact channels used by your company are easy to find, effortless and fast. Provide the consumers in your company’s customer base with equal opportunities to contact the company through sufficiently diverse contact channels. For example, if your company markets to elderly persons, it is appropriate to offer phone services as a contact method in addition to an online form.

Consumer rights after the sale

Make sure that the customer service provided by your company allows the consumer to exercise their rights also after the sale. In terms of consumer rights, it is essential that the consumers can terminate their contracts, file complaints about defects and have their matter solved efficiently.

The opening hours of customer service

Your contact channels must be available to consumers so that they can exercise their statutory rights.

The opening hours of customer service are influenced by the nature of the service you provide and the needs your customers may have in case of problems.

  • For example, if the service you provide is available 24/7, customer service must also in principle be as widely available as possible.

The Consumer Ombudsman has drawn attention, for example, that the consumer cannot be required to contact customer service immediately under the threat of sanctions if the availability and functionality of customer service has not been secured. The Consumer Ombudsman’s decision about customer service availability (in Finnish).

Organising termination

Terminating the service must be as easy as purchasing the service.

  • If it is possible to order the service you offer, for example, through an application, it would be a good idea to offer the option to terminate the service through the same channel at the very least.

It would be a good idea to provide the option to terminate the service in several channels.

  • Limiting the termination to a single channel, even though your company uses several channels in other service matters, makes it more difficult for the consumer to exercise their statutory rights.

Instruct the customer in making the termination. Both the customer and your company benefit from clear guidelines for exercising the consumer’s statutory rights.

  • Providing customers with unclear instructions for termination may also make it more difficult to exercise the consumer’s statutory rights.

Instructions for setting up a complaint channel and processing a complaint

    • If your company’s operations focus on the Internet, electronic forms can be a natural way of handling matters.
    • Phone services are still the most important and preferred way for many consumers to contact companies.
    • If a certain channel is the most efficient for your company, you can recommend it to the consumer as the primary means for filing a complaint.
    • However, you should note that the company must receive and properly process complaints regardless of the way of submission.
    • Ignoring a complaint submitted contrary to the instructions is unfair in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
  • If your company uses an electronic form as its primary contact channel, for example, the contact form must be effective, and the consumer must be able to prove that they have made the contact and to save it in a manner similar to email.

  • Good customer service entails helping the consumer file a complaint also when the liability for the defect lies with a party other than your company.

    • You should note that the information about filing a complaint has been presented in a way that the consumer can easily find the correct contact channel.
    • The consumer must file a complaint within a reasonable time, so your company must ensure that contacting the company is easy for the consumer.
  • If the first step in handling a complaint is to send a standard response, the company must pay particular attention to the clarity of the standard responses and their suitability for each situation. It is essential that the consumer can form an accurate impression of their rights and obligations.

    • Inform the consumer about the stages and schedule of the processing.
    • Specify who is responsible for the processing.
    • It is easiest for the company and the consumer if the same person is responsible for the entire processing of the complaint.
  • Which product or service is involved, when the product was purchased, what kind of problem is it, etc.

  • The consumer should not have to contact the company several times to get the matter solved.

    • You can develop your customer service competence in the KKV Kampus learning environment. Myyjänvastuupolku (Learning path about the vendor’s liability) is intended for a professional in the company to learn about consumer protection. Responding to various complaints, customer feedback, maintenance and support situations is discussed in the Ylläpidän asiakassuhdetta (Maintaining customer relationship; in Finnish) section of the learning path.
    • ·The provisions of the Consumer Protection Act are mandatory for the benefit of the consumer and cannot be deviated from in a manner that weakens the consumer’s position. It is also essential that the consumer is provided with the correct information about their rights and obligations. The Consumer Ombudsman’s Guidelines: Liability for defects and warranty in the sale of consumer goods discusses the principles of liability for defects and warranty from the vendor’s perspective. The purpose of the guideline is to guide and support the vendor to act as required by law in the event of errors. How to compensate for a defect in line with the principles of the Consumer Protection Act (in Finnish)

The consumer may not incur additional costs from the customer service or filing a complaint

Customer service from a basic-rate telephone number

No additional costs may be charged to the consumer for handling matters related to a prior customer relationship, such as invoicing or cancelling a contract, i.e. the company may not utilise a charge higher than the basic rate for handling such matters.

  • If your company provides phone services to consumers, the consumer must be able to handle matters related to a prior contract (e.g. terminating a contract, filing a complaint, invoicing) without incurring any extra costs from calling your phone line.
  • If the consumer has to handle a matter concerning a prior purchase or contract in a phone service with a telephone number that is more expensive than a basic-rate phone line, the consumer must be compensated afterwards for any call-related expenses that exceed the basic rate if so demanded by the consumer.

Customer service number more expensive than a basic-rate number

You do not need to use a basic-rate customer service line for calls related to something other than a prior contract, such as a new contract or store opening hours.

When a company provides both a basic-rate and a more expensive customer service number, attention should be paid to the following.

  • Both telephone numbers can be mentioned in parallel in the company’s communication channels, but the more expensive number must not be displayed as the primary number.
  • The purpose of the telephone numbers shall be indicated in a sufficiently clear and understandable manner.
  • The availability and level of service between the basic-rate and the more expensive telephone numbers must not differ significantly. For example, the opening hours of the basic-rate number may not be significantly less favourable.

Read more about customer service subject to charge

Unfair practices in customer service

The Consumer Ombudsman supervises marketing and practices in a customer relationship under the Consumer Protection Act. If your company uses unfair practices in a customer relationship, the Consumer Ombudsman may intervene in the activities of the company regarding various shortcomings in customer service.

Unfair practices include providing false or misleading information, omissions of material information and using aggressive practices.

For example, a practice in which the company makes it difficult to exercise the consumer’s statutory rights can be considered unfair. The practice may be unfair, for example,

  • if your company tells the consumer who filed a complaint to contact the importer, for example, to negotiate compensation
  • if your company does not actually process the consumer’s contact but instead sends the consumer a standard response that does not necessarily correspond to the consumer’s contact in any way.

Consumer competence – learn about consumer protection in online courses

The customer service personnel of your company must be familiar with consumer protection legislation so that false or misleading information is not given to the consumer about their rights or that the exercise of the consumer’s rights is not made more difficult.

It would be good idea to pay attention to personnel competence and training. Competence in consumer protection can be developed in basic and advanced courses on vendor’s liability in the KVV Kampus learning environment (in Finnish).

For example, see the myyjänvastuupolku (Learning path about the vendor’s liability; in Finnish).

Guidance on consumer law issues for companies

The Consumer Advisory Services provide companies with general advice and guidance on finding information on consumer law issues. The service can help in finding a solution to a dispute with a consumer.

However, the Consumer Advisory Services cannot resolve or settle an individual dispute based on the company’s contact. Instead, the processing of the matter always requires that the consumer contacts the Consumer Advisory Services. Furthermore, ready-made solutions to questions of interpretation are not always available.

In disputes between companies, the Consumer Advisory Services cannot help regardless of the corporate form of the company.

Find out if company guidance can help you: read more about guidance for companies.

Information and tools

The Consumer Ombudsman’s guidelines contain guidance, advice and information about the practical application of legislative provisions. By following the principles of guidelines, the company can ensure that their operations are legal and maintain the consumer’s trust.


Consumer protection act