10 November 2011
The Finnish Consumer Agency / Consumer Ombudsman has made an initiative to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry of Justice on restricting telemarketing. Telemarketers would be allowed to call a consumer only if the consumer has given prior consent.
During the past few years, consumer authorities have received many complaints about problems related to telemarketing. Consumers have not understood that they have committed to a contract during a telephone call or have received misleading information about the contract. For example, consumers have thought that they have only agreed to a free sample, brochure or offer, but have instead been sent completed contract papers or an invoice.
What makes the issue even more problematic is that telemarketing involves increasingly complex products and services.
“Consumers are sold for example savings products, mobile and broadband subscriptions or pay-TV and electricity supply contracts. It is difficult for telemarketers to fully explain the contents of these products and for the consumers to understand what they are committing to", says Anja Peltonen, the acting Director General of the Finnish Consumer Agency.
The law requires that sales people provide customers with sufficient information about the product and the related terms and limitations. However, for sales people working on commission it is important to make as many deals as possible, meaning that they do not necessarily provide all the essential information.
The Consumer Ombudsman has limited powers to intervene in telemarketing offences. Market Court cases usually last several years. Self-regulation has also been unsuccessful in rooting out the flaws of telemarketing. The Finnish Direct Marketing Association has developed a preference service through which consumers can limit telemarketing contacts. However, the service only applies to the members of the association, leaving out many companies that do not follow the rules of the field.
Because current legislation has not prevented problems sufficiently, the Finnish Consumer Agency / Consumer Ombudsman has made an initiative to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and the Ministry of Justice demanding stricter legislation on telemarketing. The initiative proposes that telemarketing should require prior consent from the consumer as is the case in marketing by e-mail and SMS. This way, consumers could decide from which companies they wish to receive telemarketing calls and prepare for the marketing in advance.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications has drafted a legislative proposal that would prohibit telemarketing of mobile phone subscriptions. However, the Finnish Consumer Agency / Consumer Ombudsman considers that problems related to telemarketing are so extensive and cover so many fields that they cannot be solved by provisions that apply only to the field of telecommunications.