15 January 2021 (published in English on 19 January 2021)
At the request of the Finnish Consumer Ombudsman, the Market Court prohibited the procedure by which Mezzoforte Oy, which manages the Huutokaupat.com online store, withdrew the consumers’ right to cancel an online purchase. The Market Court enforced the prohibition with a conditional fine of EUR 100,000. Consumers who purchased directly from Mezzoforte on Huutokaupat.com may appeal to their right of cancellation.
The Huutokaupat.com online shop has items such as vehicles, small machines, tools, electronics and furniture on sale for consumers. The items on sale included both used and new goods. The sale was an online auction in which the selling price of the goods was determined on the basis of raised offers made on top of the starting price. According to the company's terms of contract, consumers have not had the right to cancel such a purchase.
On 11 January 2021, at the request of the Consumer Ombudsman, the Market Court prohibited a procedure by which Mezzoforte withdrew the consumers’ right to cancel a purchase. Court enforced the prohibition by a conditional fine of EUR 100 000. According to the Market Court, the company acted in violation of the Consumer Protection Act when it denied the right of cancellation, claiming that the sale was an auction.
The right of cancellation may be refused exceptionally only in so-called traditional auctions involving, among other elements, a physical auction organised by a separate auctioneer, such as the auction chamber. According to the Market Court, the Huutokaupat.com online shop is not within the scope of such an auction form that would be covered by the exemption. The sale was not a bidding procedure led by an auctioneer and no physical auction events took place. The transactions were online auctions that were not covered by the exemption.
The right of cancellation is a key consumer right in distance selling
In distance selling, the right of cancellation is a key rule and under the Consumer Protection Act based on European Union law, the consumer usually has the right to cancel the sale 14 days after the purchase is made.
"In distance selling, the goods or service cannot be reviewed before the purchase decision, so the right of cancellation is an important right for the consumer. Platforms enable new types of services. Different service concepts are welcome, but consumer rights should be taken into account in their development and practical implementation,” Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen explains the importance of the right of cancellation.
Unlawful terms and conditions of contract are not binding on the consumer. The absence of the right of cancellation in Huutokaupat.com is a void condition that Mezzoforte cannot invoke as a seller.
Consumers have the opportunity to invoke the right of cancellation
The marketing and pre-contractual information on the Huutokaupat.com online store has informed consumers that they do not have the right to cancel the purchase. As Mezzoforte, which manages the Huutokaupat.com online shop, cannot invoke this void contract term as it is an unlawful condition, consumers for whom the extended cancellation period has not yet expired may still invoke the right of cancellation.
If the trader has not informed the consumer of the right of cancellation, the cancellation period shall expire 12 months after the end of the normal cancellation period. If the company amends the deficient terms during this period, the cancellation period will end 14 days after the date when the consumer was provided with said information.
It is possible to cancel the transaction even if the goods have been put into service. If the trader has neglected to provide the consumer with information on the right of cancellation, the consumer is not responsible for the impairment of the goods put into service in the event of cancellation. If the consumer wishes to cancel the sale, they must inform the seller. If problems arise, Consumer Advisory Services provide personal advice.
The prohibition imposed applies only to transactions in which Mezzoforte purchases the goods to be sold from its previous owner and sells them in its own name on Huutokaupat.com. The decision of the Market Court does not yet have the power of law. The prohibition must be complied with from 25 January 2021.
Further information on the subject: