Antti Neimala begins as new Consumer Ombudsman

Antti Neimala (Master of Laws trained on the bench) took up his duties as Consumer Ombudsman and Director of the Consumer Division of the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority as of the beginning of this year. He succeeds Päivi Hentunen in the position, who retired at the end of 2017. The Consumer Ombudsman protects consumers, supervises that the Consumer Protection Act is adhered to and addresses problems that affect large numbers of consumers in different sectors in accordance with its priorisation principles.

2018 will be a busy year in terms of consumer protection. The Consumer Ombudsman will be occupied by online scams and subscription traps, which can be considered the downside of digitalisation. Payday loans and discount and advertisement campaigns always involve problems for consumers.

“Digitalisation is a positive phenomenon, because consumers have access to new, better and cheaper services. However, we must be able to stave off any negative side effects. It is also important to ensure that consumers who for one reason or another cannot utilise the full potential of digitalisation can nevertheless obtain the services they need and participate in society,” says Mr Neimala.

Busy consumer policy year ahead

Several important law changes are under way that affect consumers. The Consumer Ombudsman already approached the Ministry of Justice with an initiative to tighten the regulation on payday loans. The social welfare and health care reform has intensified the need to improve consumer protection with regard to public services and services in general. On another front, the EU recently passed a law that significantly improves the powers of all EU member states’ consumer authorities.

“The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s expertise is an important contribution to legislators. We aim to take an active part in the debate about consumer policies. Consumer trust is an important element of a healthy market, and this trust must be nurtured,” says Neimala.

2018 will also be an anniversary for Finnish consumer protection, because it was 40 years ago that the Consumer Protection Act came into force and the consumer ombudsman institution came into being. We will return to this more later in the year.

Active stakeholder cooperation and communication

Communication and cooperation with stakeholders are key duties of the Consumer Ombudsman. Social media will be used more, attempting to obtain a conversational tone when discussing topical consumer issues. Stakeholder cooperation takes place systematically on a partnership basis with the authorities and both consumer and business organisations.

“The consumer administration is contacted tens of thousands of times a year by consumers. The purpose of communication and stakeholder cooperation is to prevent any disputes before they happen. When everyone is clear about the rules, the number of disputes is significantly reduced,” says Neimala.

More duties to the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority

Some major changes were made in 2017 in the management of consumer issues. Consumer advice at Register Offices, helping consumers in individual disputes, will be transferred under the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (FCCA) as of the beginning of 2019. The regional state administrative agencies’ competition and consumer management duties will also be transferred under the FCCA as of the beginning of 2020. These changes will double the number of staff in the Consumer Division.

“Concentrating consumer management under the FCCA will improve the supervision of consumer protection and the impact of consumer policy. Consumer Advisory Service will know much better what the consumer issues are any given time, and the regional agencies will be able to take action locally to greater effect. Following these changes, we will have a versatile and efficient consumer protection machinery at our disposal”, says Neimala.

Further information:

  • Consumer Ombudsman Antti Neimala, tel. 029 505 3100,
  • Consumer Ombudsman in Twitter: @AnttiNeimala

More about the Consumer Ombudsman´s tasks and the prioritisation criteria for supervision: