The Consumer Ombudsman, the Consumer Advisory Service at Register Offices and the European Consumer Centre Finland have, at the end of 2016 and in early 2017, received a total of over a hundred consumer contacts regarding the website Autonhintaarvio.fi, which provides a car price assessment service. According to the notifications, advertising for the service does not make it clear that the service is subject to a charge. No unjustified invoices need to be paid, but the consumer must send a consumer complaint to the company.
The only price information given on the actual order page is given in light grey text in a small font, placed considerably below the order button. It is difficult to see. When it has become clear that the service is subject to a charge, consumers have had trouble in cancelling the service.
The provider of the Autonhintaarvio.fi service is listed as an Estonian company called Nordicpartner Oü. According to the company’s contractual terms, the company provides consumers with “digital products” and, according to the service terms, the consumer cannot cancel the order after receiving such a digital product.
The Consumer Ombudsman finds that the Autonhintaarvio.fi service is not, however, a service providing digital content but an online service. Thus, it in fact constitutes the distance selling of a service. As a rule, consumers have the right to a 14-day withdrawal period in the case of distance selling.
According to the Consumer Protection Act, during the cancellation period the consumer does not have to pay for a partially or completely performed service, if the company has begun performing the service during the cancellation period without the consumer’s consent. The consumer must give consent by an active method, which means that the mere statement of the matter, for example in the company’s contractual terms, does not constitute sufficient grounds for the performance of the service before the end of the cancellation period. An active measure means, for instance, that the consumer ticks a box requesting that service provision begin immediately. Such an active choice, which is required by law, has not been possible on the autonhintaarvio.fi website.
Instructions for consumers
If you ordered a car price assessment service via the Autonhintaarvio.fi website without realising that the service was subject to a charge, and the service, i.e. the price estimate, was delivered to you during the cancellation period, which is within 14 days of placing the order, even though you never made an explicit request for it, make a written complaint to the company. You do not have to pay the invoice, but a consumer complaint must be made. For example, a consumer complaint should be made by email, if possible, so that you have proof of having made the complaint. Keep the price estimate you received.
You can use the following text when filing a consumer complaint with the company:
I did not order a car price assessment service subject to a charge from you. I did not specifically request that service provision should begin during the cancellation period.
The provisions concerning the right to cancel, governing Nordicpartner Oü’s campaign, are laid down in Chapter 6 of the Finnish Consumer Protection Act. According to the law, after the confirmation of delivery and before the end of the cancellation period, service provision may only begin by the specific request of the consumer. The consumer must make such a request by an active method, which means that mere statement of the matter, for instance in contractual terms, does not constitute sufficient grounds for the performance of the service before the end of the cancellation period. Such a specific request can be made, for example, by the consumer ticking a box requesting that service provision begin immediately. I never made a specific request.
Pursuant to Chapter 6, section 19(2) of the Consumer Protection Act, the consumer is not liable to pay for services rendered partially or in full during the cancellation period, if the trader began the delivery of services, based on the agreement, during the cancellation period and without the consumer’s explicit request.
You can submit a consumer complaint on the aforementioned manner even if more than 14 days have passed since the receipt of the estimate/invoice.
If the matter is not resolved despite a written consumer complaint, you may contact the Consumer Advisory Service at Register Offices for further advice. The Consumer Ombudsman is monitoring the situation and has contacted the Estonian consumer authority.