AAA-Palvelut Oy receives prohibitions due to telemarketing – Market Court outlines the core issues of telemarketing at the request of the Consumer Ombudsman

The Market Court issued a prohibition reinforced with a conditional fine of EUR 150,000 to AAA-Palvelut Oy, due to aggressive telemarketing in violation of the Consumer Protection Act and neglecting the obligation to provide advance information in remote sales. The Consumer Ombudsman took the matter of AAA-Palvelut Oy’s telemarketing to the Market Court last year due to long-standing illegal telemarketing practices.

On 26 January 2024, as demanded by the Consumer Ombudsman, the Market Court forbade AAA-Palvelut Oy from making sales calls where the company offers contracts related to natural health products to consumers without stating clearly and comprehensibly that the contract will be valid until further notice. The Market Court has also forbidden AAA-Palvelut Oy from continuing sales calls and the marketing of natural health products after a consumer has expressed a wish to end the call or has refused the natural health product being offered. The Market Court reinforced each of the three points in the prohibition with a conditional fine of EUR 50,000. Ruling MAO:52/2024 is legally binding.

”Telemarketing has traditionally been a sales method that causes headaches for consumers. This ruling by the Market Court establishes the core issues of telemarketing: providing sufficient information to consumers and using the appropriate marketing practices. This serves as a reminder to all telemarketers that marketing has to be planned and executed carefully while respecting consumers’ rights.”

Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen

In telemarketing the consumer must be informed clearly and comprehensibly of the contract´s validity period

AAA-Palvelut was marketing a subscription for natural health products that was valid indefinitely as a “thank you package”, while consumers were left under the impression that they had ordered a single product. Consumers were not clearly and comprehensibly informed that, by accepting the offer, they would commit to a subscription that would be valid until further notice. On the contrary, consumers were told that no other fees or further subscriptions would be required. At the end of the call, a vague reference to the continuation of the contract was made. However, the Market Court did not consider it to be a clear and comprehensible enough statement on the agreement’s duration.

According to the Market Court, the obligation to provide information, as stated in the Consumer Protection Act, is meant to ensure that consumers are given all of the necessary information in a clear and comprehensible manner before deciding to buy. When the order is not a one-time-order, the duration and expiration of the agreement are some of the key details that the consumer should receive before agreeing to a distance sales contract.

”Telemarketing is a unique sales tactic, because the consumer does not expect a call. Telemarketers need to be particularly careful, because it is impossible for them to know exactly where the consumer will be when they receive the call. Additionally, it is crucial that all of the legally required information is provided, because the consumer only has access to information that they receive during the call”, says Consumer Ombudsman Katri Väänänen.

Aggressive telemarketing is against the law

The Market Court also examined a method used by AAA-Palvelut Oy where the salesperson ignored the consumer’s repeated request to end the call or refusal of the product, and, instead, continued the sales call and promoted products regardless of the consumer’s refusal.

The Market Court’s opinion was that AAA-Palvelut Oy’s methods were an example of the kind of persistent and unwelcome telemarketing calls that are prohibited by law. The prohibition is a part of a so-called blacklist, which contains a comprehensive list of aggressive marketing tactics that are considered unfair towards consumers under all circumstances.

The press release has been updated on June 12, 2024. The original text’s “not legally binding” has been changed to “legally binding”.