Consumer Ombudsman issues new guidelines on door-to-door selling

The Consumer Ombudsman has issued new guidelines on door-to-door selling because the Directive on Consumer Rights has necessitated amendments to the Consumer Protection Act’s provisions on the same issue. The amendments concern issues such as the cancellation of orders and the obligation of companies to provide consumers with more information than previously before a contract is signed. The definition of door-to-door selling was also expanded. It no longer matters whether a contract is made on the initiative of a buyer or a seller.

The Consumer Ombudsman has issued door-to-door selling guidelines to help companies ensure that their operations are compliant with legislation. The guidelines also contain information on consumers’ rights and responsibilities in the case of door-to-door sales.  In addition to legislation, the guidelines take account of the decisions of the Consumer Disputes Board. The Consumer Ombudsman received statements from trade and industry associations, the Consumer Disputes Board and Consumer Advisory Service during the preparation process for the guidelines.

Door-to-door sales refer to contracts and offers made outside a trader’s premises in situations where both parties are present. It does not matter which party initiates the contract. Door-to-door selling includes situations such as that in which a consumer invites an entrepreneur to his/her home and the parties sign a contract for a renovation.

Amendments to the right to cancel

Due to the new provisions, amendments have been made to the right to cancel an agreement, for example.  Simply returning goods is insufficient to constitute a cancellation. Instead, in every case the consumer must send a notice of cancellation. Companies must provide consumers with a cancellation form, but a notice of cancellation must also be possible via other means of communication, such as email or a notification attached to the return delivery.  The cancellation must be made within 14 days of receiving the goods or signing the contract. The new provisions require that the consumer pay the return costs of any order they have personally cancelled. Companies may offer free returns to their customers.

Due to the new provisions, the right to cancel has been limited in the context of door-to-door selling. For example, the consumer has no right to cancel in a situation where the goods have been tailored to meet the consumer’s needs or they clearly correspond to the consumer’s personal needs. An example of this would be an order for purpose-built kitchen fittings and their installation. When the loss of the right to cancel is being assessed, attention can be paid to whether the trader concerned has taken action to meet its contractual obligations, for example in a situation where an agreement has been made to postpone the beginning of a delivery. The absence of the right to cancel must be clearly communicated before a contract is made.

Door-to-door selling is used for relatively expensive purchases such as renovation services. Although amended legislation permits the limitation of the right to cancel a contract tailored for the consumer, this is not always disclosed before a contract is signed. This has caused problems for elderly consumers in particular.

The new provisions require that companies provide consumers with more information prior to signing a contract.  Companies must inform consumers, either on paper or in some other permanent format, of issues such as the product’s main properties, the total price including tax, delivery and return costs, and the contact information of the trader in question.  Consumers must also be informed about the cancellation terms and conditions of an order, customer service and the vendor’s statutory liability to rectify defects in goods.

Guidelines for door-to-door selling  (in Finnish)