14 April 2011
The Finnish Consumer Agency/Consumer Ombudsman has imposed a marketing ban on Norvital who marketed health food under the guise of a health survey.
In the summer and autumn of 2010, Finnish consumers received letters from the Norwegian firm Norvital AS with the heading ‘Suomalainen terveystutkimus (Finnish health survey)’. The letters were also distributed with magazines.
According to the letter, the objective of the survey was to map out Finns' attitudes to health, physical activity and nutrition. On the reverse of the letter, after the questions about health, was an item that already had a cross against it, according to which the person who had completed the health questionnaire and participated in a draw for a gift voucher committed themselves to a standing order for Norvital’s Red Omega 3 fish oil capsules. If the consumer did not want to order the capsules they had to make that clear separately.
The letter gave consumers the misleading impression that there was a large scale survey of Finns’ health underway. The objective of the marketing was to get the consumer to commit without noticing, or against their well, to a chargeable, standing order for fish oil capsules. This kind of practice is contrary to the Consumer Protection Act.
The Finnish Consumer Agency/consumer ombudsman imposed a marketing ban on Norvital which was reinforced by a conditional fine of one hundred thousand Euros. Norvital AS stated that the marketing campaign linked to the health survey had already finished. The company also undertook not to implement any similar illegal marketing campaigns in the future.