The Consumer Protection Act came into force and the Consumer Ombudsman started working in autumn 1978. In honour of the 40th anniversary of Finnish consumer protection, we listed items where consumer protection has improved the position of consumers or made their everyday lives easier.
Many of the things consumers now take for granted have been achieved through consumer protection – and, on the other hand, consumer protection works and protects consumers even in situations where they do not know their rights. Well functioning and implemented consumer protection can also present a competitive advantage to a company.
Marketing and advertising
1. Consumers must not be provided with false or misleading information in marketing.
2. Marketing must not violate good practices: for example, the use of violence and discrimination based on gender or ethnicity in advertising is not acceptable.
3. Marketing must take into account the position of the target audience and not exploit their susceptibility to influence due to age, disability or gullibility. Inappropriateness is assessed from the viewpoint of the target audience.
4. The position of minors is safeguarded so that, without the consent of a parent or guardian, they can only make ordinary and minor purchases. Minors must also not be directly prompted to buy a product or to persuade their parents to buy it.
5. Advertising must be recognisable on all channels. For example, a blogger or vlogger must clearly state if the posting was done in cooperation with a company and he/she received the showcased products or services for free.
6. So-called negative contractual commitments are prohibited. It is prohibited to market goods to consumers by delivering them without a specific order, subsequently requiring them to make a payment or to return or safekeep the product. Offers must not resemble invoices.
7. Marketing messages must not be sent by email or phone without the recipient’s express prior consent.
8. The total price of products and services must be provided, that is, the final price payable by the customer. If this is not possible, the basis for calculating the price must be provided.
9. In addition to sales prices, products must show prices per litre or kilogramme. This helps to compare which option really is the least expensive.
10. The discounts indicated must be real, or they must be calculated on the price that was charged for the same product in the same venue immediately prior to the sale.
11. Since consumers cannot inspect the goods in door-to-door or distance selling, the vendor has extensive obligations to disclose information in these situations, and the consumer has the right of withdrawal in many cases.
Compensation for defects in products and services
12. Consumers can expect the service life of their purchased goods to be equal to what can normally be expected from similar goods.
13. The consumer who has bought a defective product can request that the vendor rectify the defect or deliver a non-defective product. If the defect cannot be compensated for by either means, the buyer can request a discount or, ultimately, cancel the purchase.
14. Consumers have the right to withhold payment and the right to damages in the event of defects and delays.
15. The vendor's liability for defect does not end when the warranty expires.
16. Warranty repair is free of charge for the consumer.
17. The importer’s liability for defect towards the consumer provides the consumer with additional security.
18. A standard refund can be paid for telephone or internet subscription service interruptions.
19. A standard compensation can be paid for long power outages.
20. Compensation can be claimed for delayed or cancelled flights, and bus, ship and train journeys.
21. The travel package security system safeguards advance payments made by consumers.
22.The terms of contracts with consumers have been subjected to a requirement of reasonableness. For instance, unclear terms are considered unreasonable.
23. The notice period of the contract must be reasonable.
24. In disputes, unreasonable terms of contract are reconciled to the benefit of the consumer.
25. A company may unilaterally alter a contract only in pre-agreed and strictly limited situations.
26. Contracts must not be subjected to substantial changes in terms.
27. The standard terms and conditions negotiated by the Consumer Ombudsman provide protection for the entire collective of consumers.
28. In defect and bankruptcy cases, for example, consumers have the right to get their money back even from the credit provider, such as a credit card company. Consumers also have the same rights towards telecom companies when purchases are charged on mobile phone invoices.
29. Consumers are entitled to basic banking services. Online banking credentials are also part of basic banking services.
30. The actual annual interest rate helps in comparing credit prices. An interest rate cap has been set for loans under EUR 2,000.
31. Limitations to changes in credit costs during a credit relationship are in force.
32. The consumer has the right to repay a loan early. This allows for the possibility to retender the loan.
33. Limitations to the amount of collection costs in payment delay cases are in force.
34. Vendors of prefabricated houses must deposit a security for the advance payments of consumers, safeguarding the money in case the company for some reason becomes insolvent.
35. Consumers can invoke the so-called social force majeure if they have run into payment difficulties due to unexpected unemployment, an illness or another reason beyond their control.
36. Consumers have the right to customer service via a basic-rate telephone number.
37. The customer service must be accessible, and companies must process complaints appropriately. Complicating the exercise of consumers’ statutory rights constitutes unlawful, inappropriate practices in a customer relationship.
Authorities helping the consumer
38. Consumer Rights Advisors help consumers in disputes and the Consumer Ombudsman monitors compliance with legislation. The European Consumer Centre gives guidance to consumers who have issues with companies operating in another EU Member State, Norway or Iceland.
39. The Consumer Disputes Board issues resolution recommendations in individual cases. Companies must inform consumers of dispute settlement bodies.
40. The possibility for the Consumer Ombudsman to use class action accelerates reaching negotiated solutions with companies.
The jubileum of the Finnish Consumer Protection Act wa celebrated on 23 October 2018 at the “40 Years of Consumer Protection” guest seminar in the House of the Estates, Helsinki, Finland. Consumer Ombudsman of Finland, Katri Väänänen, gave a speech at the seminar. The seminar was arranged by the Finnish Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
Katri Väänänen takes over as Consumer Ombudsman. Press Release by the Finnish Competition adn Consumer Authority 15 Oct 2018.
kkv.fi/en (website of the Finnish Competition adn Consumer Authority)
Consumer Protection Act (Finlex)