Consumers are invited to order a sample pack of the Glucomannan and Vihreä kahvi slimming products but are not clearly informed that this constitutes a commitment to a fixed-term subscription. The company responsible for marketing the products, Xellim Oü in Estonia, has not adjusted its marketing as demanded by the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman.
The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman and the consumer advisory service have received hundreds of complaints concerning the Konjak-Glucomannan, Glucomannan-konjak-juurikuitu and Vihreä kahvi / Green Coffee Fresh slimming products. These products have been advertised on Facebook; clicking the ad took the consumer to the Glucomannan.fi, superkuitu.com or vihreäkahvi.fi website. Consumers have also received ads for these products by e-mail.
On the aforementioned websites, a sample pack of the slimming products was offered at the price of EUR 4.90. What came as a surprise to consumers was that ordering the sample pack amounted to signing a fixed-term subscription agreement unless they specifically cancelled the subscription within 14 days of receiving the sample pack. Marketing such as this where the terms and conditions of placing an order are not clearly specified may be considered misleading and as such violates the Consumer Protection Act.
The websites are maintained by Xellim Oü, an Estonian company. A Canadian company named Offlion International Ltd also offered the same slimming products on the same websites in early 2014. The Consumer Ombudsman required Offlion International Ltd initially and Xellim Oü subsequently to adjust its marketing to bring it into compliance with the Consumer Protection Act.
However, Xellim Oü has not responded to the Consumer Ombudsman’s demands; it continues to market the slimming products and the Shinewhite dental whitening products in the same misleading way. The Consumer Ombudsman has asked the Estonian consumer authorities to intervene in the company's operations in order to correct the situation.
Instructions for consumers
- If you have received an invoice from Xellim Oü for anything else than the sample pack or the introductory order, even though you thought you were only ordering a sample, please send a written claim to the company stating that you dispute the invoice. You may state your grounds for instance as follows: “I have ordered a product sample on the basis of an ad and have paid its mailing costs. I have not placed any other orders.” Send your claim to one of the following addresses, depending on which product sample you ordered: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Save a copy of the claim you sent.
- Check the invoice to see who is given as the recipient of the payment and copy your claim e-mail to the invoicer. Recently, Xellim Oü has been using the Trust invoicing service. Its address is email@example.com. You are not obliged to submit to the seller any ‘official’ complaint form that may be asked of you. An e-mail message is enough. Remember to save a copy of the message you sent.
- If the invoice is referred to debt collection, send a written claim disputing the invoice to the debt collection company. By law, a debt collection company may not continue the collection procedure if a consumer disputes his liability and presents grounds for so doing.
Because Xellim Oü is an Estonian company, you may ask for further information at the European Consumer Centre in Finland if required, tel. 029 505 3090, Mon to Fri 9.00–12.00.