Consumer complaints regarding distance selling and contracts became more commonplace

From January to June 2017, the Consumer Advisory Service received more than 34,000 complaints in total. As in the previous years, most problems were caused by vehicles, housing and renovations. There was a higher number of complaints regarding contracts, such as the termination of contracts and unreasonable terms and conditions, as well as distance selling.

Between January and June, the consumer rights advisors at local register offices assisted consumers in a total of 34,863 cases. The most typical sources of complaints remained the same: vehicles, housing and renovations.

More than a quarter of the complaints received by the Consumer Advisory Service pertained to distance selling and contracts. There were more complaints regarding products and services purchased online or from door-to-door sellers compared to the same period in the previous year. Complaints regarding door-to-door selling were frequently pertaining to renovations. Typically, the customers in these cases were elderly. The terms and conditions were not always explained clearly, if at all.

“The seller may quote necessary areas in need of repair in the house, or even threaten with damage, and thereby create a need for a purchase, which in reality may not exist. Both companies and consumers still have a lot to learn about the rules of door-to-door selling,” says Raija Marttala, Consumer Rights Adviser, Local Register Office of Uusimaa.

Many of the problems pertaining to online sales could be avoided simply by using a credit card as the payment method. You can ask for your money back from credit card companies, for instance, if the ordered product never arrives and the company cannot be reached.

Complaints about contracts are typically linked to difficulties in cancelling or terminating the contract. Perhaps the product does not match the description given to the consumer at the time of sale, yet the consumer is not able to cancel the contract. Online shopping, door-to-door selling and telesales make it easy to make purchases, but customer service is often scantily available if the consumer runs into trouble or wishes to cancel the contract.

“There are many online services available, such as various Internet TV and storage services subject to a charge. Sometimes customers are talked into buying devices or services they don’t need using misleading information. These situations happen in both telesales and in-store sales,” says Marttala.

Consumers should remember that door-to-door and distance selling contracts can be cancelled within 14 days. Contracts made in store, on the other hand, are not subject to a general cancellation right.

You can contact the Consumer Advisory Service electronically by using the contact form. Consumers can also use the Complaint Assistant developed by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, which provides assistance in how to submit a written complaint to a company.

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