5 February 2010
In addition to in-shop sales, teleoperators sell mobile and broadband subscriptions by phone. The Consumer Agency has found out that the provisions set by law are too often overlooked in telemarketing.
The Consumer Agency has been contacted several times about the telemarketing of subscriptions. Based on the messages received, it appears that sales personnel and customers interpret phone conversations in a completely different manner.
The service provider may have sent the customer an order confirmation and a new SIM card, even if the customer is under the impression that he or she has merely requested for a quote or more information. In some cases, the telemarketer has submitted the customer’s current service provider a request for mobile number transfer, even though the customer has not granted permission for this.
Additional problems include misleading or insufficient information provided by telemarketers. They may praise low prices and other benefits, but the customer is not informed about essential terms and conditions of the contract. The telemarketer may, for instance, fail to mention that the contract is a fixed term one, unless the consumer asks about this.
Not only some of the marketing methods but also some policies related to order confirmation and cancellation have proved inadequate. The customer may have ordered a new subscription but has not received an order confirmation or the confirmation has been unclear. There have been cases in which the customer has been sent an order confirmation for a contract with standard rates, though he or she has ordered a discount-rate contract.
Purchases made over the phone are a type of distant sales, and the customer is automatically entitled to a cancellation term of 14 days. Telemarketers do not, however, always clearly mention this right. The service providers have, in some cases, told the customer that cancelling the contract is not possible, even if the customer has made the cancellation within the appropriate term and the mobile contract has not even been delivered yet.
“Operators have not planned the different sales phases carefully enough and have failed to consider the requirements set by law. As a result, customers find themselves is an unfair situation. The worst-case scenario is that the customer is left with nothing; they cancel a contract that was delivered to them against their will, but the new operator has already cancelled their old contract," describes Director Anja Peltonen of the Consumer Agency.
The Consumer Agency is particularly concerned about how senior citizens and other special groups cope with telemarketing. The Agency has been informed of cases in which elderly people were sold tie-in deals and contracts replacing their landline connection with devices far too complex for their needs.
Subscription sales problems are not restricted to telemarketing, as the same issues are found in sales conducted at shops, at shopping centre stands and online. In order to rectify the situation, the Consumer Agency, teleoperators and organisations in the field have co-operated to modify the phases and timing of sales to increase their uniformity and clarity. To promote this project, the Consumer Agency has prepared guidelines which list the basic rules governing the distant sales of communication services, using practical examples.