The corona situation raises many questions and concerns among consumers. The FCCA is closely monitoring the situation and consumer advisors are now answering the most common questions that consumers have put to Consumer Advice Services.
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority monitors the situation and constantly updates the guidelines on the Corona virus and the position of consumers, publishing its recommendations on its website. You will find updated instructions here.
Read also what the restrictions on movement in Uusimaa mean for consumers.
1. Can I travel abroad even though it is not recommended?
The Consumer Advice Services does not provide recommendations for travel.
A Government decision will start restricting Finnish border traffic starting from 00.00 on Thursday, 19 March 2020. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland recommends that you do not travel abroad for the time being.
For more information, visit the ministry's website
2. What happens if I get stuck abroad?
Regarding the matter, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has given general guidelines and answers travellers’ most common answers.
When stuck, the situation depends on whether your flight is cancelled or some other reason, such as quarantine or a ban on leaving the country or territory.
An air passenger always has certain minimum rights when a flight is cancelled if the flight departs from another EU country, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The same rules are applied to flights departing from airports outside the EU heading to an airport in the EU, if the airline in question is based in an EU country.
For example, if your return flight is cancelled, you can choose between having it refunded or rerouted. Rerouting can be very difficult under these circumstances, and you may have to arrange your return yourself. If your flight is cancelled, contact the airline.
3. Can I exchange the airline tickets that I have purchased for a later date at no cost?
The option of transferring flights to another date depends largely on the airline's ticket policy and flexibility. Travellers will not be able to cancel or reschedule the majority of low-fare flights without any costs.
However, due to the Corona virus, many airlines have introduced more flexible exchange and cancellation policies, and offered consumers the opportunity to reschedule their flights to a later date at no extra cost.
You may want to check the ticket terms and check with the airline to find out how to change your flight.
4. Can I cancel a travel package for which I have already paid and, if so, under what conditions?
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has advised against travelling abroad. Given that travel is currently not recommended at all and that there are significant restrictions on cross-border traffic, the right to cancel travel free of charge will apply to all journeys until at least 13 May 2020, but it may extend even further.
When you cancel a tour, the tour operator must, as a rule, return the money within 14 days of the cancellation of the contract. Due to the exceptional nature of the situation, there may be delays in refunds.
Travel in Finland
5. Train traffic runs at a reduced frequency, and I do not know if the journey I have purchased will materialize. Can I use the ticket later?
If your train is cancelled, you have the right to either use the ticket later on the same route or, alternatively, get it refunded. Delays can result in a price reduction. This is not affected by the exceptional situation created by the Corona virus. Currently, VR offers to exchange journeys that are scheduled to take place in two weeks’ time or later free of charge. Travel destination and travel class must remain the same.
Changes scheduled to take place earlier than in a two weeks’ time are subject to the same terms and conditions of change, which means that the departure date or time of a one-time ticket can be changed for a € 5 change payment fee. If the ticket is changed to a more expensive one, the price difference will be charged when the ticket is exchanged.
Information from the website of VR
6. I have paid for accommodation at a Finnish holiday destination. Can I cancel my reservation and be refunded as I do not want to take a trip in Finland under these conditions? The accommodation company is adhering strictly to their reservation terms.
Cancellation rights are mainly determined by reservation terms. However, the relevant legislation allows mediating these terms if their application would lead to an unreasonable situation for the consumer. Due to the coronavirus situation, unnecessary domestic tourism should be avoided. Therefore, there are good grounds for mediation.
7. I am participating in organized bus trip with more than than a dozen people. Can I cancel or postpone my trip and, if so, under what conditions?
Gatherings of more than ten people do not concern bus trips. At this stage, domestic travel is not restricted by official regulations. As a genera rule, you cannot postpone or cancel your trip unless the terms and conditions of the contract allow it. If you are subject to restrictions on movement imposed by authorities (for example, if you are quarantined or over 70 years of age), there are different ways of evaluating the right of withdrawal.
8. I have bought a monthly pass for public transport in my municipality of residence. Can I transfer my ticket to a later period when I'm assigned to telecommuting?
In this situation, the operator may have different policies regarding flexibility. It is a good idea to check with your area's public transport operator.
However, as public transport is still functioning and serving the public normally, for example, teleworking does not in principle justify the refunding of the ticket or its transferring to a later period. The situation will change if public transport is significantly restricted by government regulations or decisions taken by the operator.
In addition, public transport compensation policies may have been modified on account of government restrictions. For example, HSL has added to normal refunds for a season ticket cases caused by a restriction on movement imposed by an authority. These include the quarantine imposed by the authority on a person and, now, the new quarantine on persons over 70 years of age. In such cases, you may apply for a refund afterwards.
Services and events
9. Concert and theatre cancelled. Can I get my ticket back on the tickets?
The starting point is that if the event is cancelled, the ticket price must be refunded. Alternatively, you can discuss with the event organizer how to use the ticket in other ways later. If tickets have been purchased through a ticket agent, the shipping and service fees charged by it will not normally be recoverable even if the event is cancelled.
10. My gym was closed for a month, but I have paid my membership dues for a whole year. Can I get an extra membership month at no cost?
You can negotiate with your gym company for a free extension of your membership or a price reduction equivalent to the interruption. Some of the gym chains are still open, but many of them offer their clients the opportunity to temporarily suspend their membership.
If you find that the refund offered is inadequate, you can complain to the service provider.
11. I am a member of a sports club that has been suspended due to the Corona virus situation. Can I get a refund for seasonal fees?
Issues relating to membership of a club or other association fall outside the scope of the Consumer Protection Act. This should be clarified within the club.
12. I have a temporary sports channel subscription. What are my rights after all sports events have been cancelled until further notice?
For sports channels, the main content of the service consists of sending direct and new sports events. Since practically all ball sports leagues and other top-level sports have been interrupted, essential parts of the service in accordance with the agreement are not available. This may justify the termination of contracts, including fixed-term contracts. If a package includes other channels in addition to sports channels, the compensation can usually be a price reduction instead of needing to terminate the contract.
Several service providers have, on their own initiative, reduced monthly fees or provided alternative content to sports broadcasts. Everyone must consider for themselves whether this is satisfactory. You can, if you wish, submit a complaint to the service provider if you consider the offered refund to be insufficient.
13. The slope season ended earlier than announced. How will the season card that I bought from a ski resort be refunded?
For example, you can negotiate with the ski resort on the postponement of the unused portion of your season card. However, if you choose so, you are also entitled to receive a cash refund for the unused portion if you find an alternative arrangement to be unsuitable for you. The amount of the refund will always be assessed on a case-by-case basis, with the assessment being affected, for example, by the information provided in the season card’s marketing.
14. I paid by credit card. Can I get my money back from the credit card company?
If you have the right to get your money back from a seller or service provider, you can request a refund from the bank that issued the credit card. The credit card company cannot require you to primarily contact a company that provided the service you have purchased. Instead, you can choose which party you will be requesting a refund from. However, especially in this exceptional situation, you should review any instructions and information on the schedule of refunds from the service provider's website before submitting your claim to the credit card company.
If you have already received your money back from a seller or service provider, you cannot request a refund from the credit card company. In addition, credit card companies have no obligation to refund a larger sum than they have received from you in the form of payments.
+ Should I insist on my rights as a consumer in all situations?
The situation is quite exceptional and has a major impact on both consumers and businesses. Consumer law confers certain rights on the consumer, but the exercise of these rights is at the discretion of each consumer. In every case, mind that it will take a longer time to resolve issues.
Many customer service lines are completely congested due to the Corona virus. Exceptional circumstances require a degree of restraint from consumers, and they should use other means of communication instead of the telephone.
If the matter is not urgent, the consumer should wait in peace. Many matters can be resolved afterwards.